CARBONDALE, Illinois, August 26, 2013 - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday announced the state's fourth investment in Gigabit Networks, providing $1.5 million in funding to a consortium led by Frontier Communications that will build an ultra high-speed broadband network in Southern Illinois.
The project is the first Gigabit Network funded by the Illinois Gigabit Community Challenge that will serve an area outside of the Chicagoland. It is also the first award to an incumbent telecommunications company.
The previous three awards went to Gigabit Squared, for a project with the University of Chicago on the city's South Side; the City of Aurora; and the City of Evanston, Illinois, and Northwest University. The first two awards were made in October 2012, and the Evanston announcement was made in January 2013.
“Ultra high-speed internet access is a key to success for the future of Illinois,” Governor Quinn said in a statement. “In order to remain competitive in today’s digital society, Illinois must have broadband infrastructure second to none.”
Quinn launched the Gigabit Challenge in his State of the State Address on February 1, 2012 -- long before Gigabit Networks became the talk of the broadband world. Since then, a range of cities, companies, and the Federal Communications Commission have come forward with a variety of proposals to help stimulate Gigabit Networks.
The Illinois contest provides seed funding awards to build or expand world-class broadband networks in Illinois. Awardees needed to provide plans to connect at least 1,000 end users to an ultra high-speed broadband network, meeting the following objectives:
- Improve employment opportunities;
- Enhance economic development through the development of “smart communities” ;
- Bring Illinois closer to our goal of increasing the proportion of residents with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025;
- Connect health care professionals with their patients;
- Position Illinois’ universities to continue to lead the nation in research, technology and innovation.
In Carbondale, the award goes to a partnership led by Frontier North Inc. Details about the other awards, and the applications for awards, are available here.
"The best part of the Governor's grant is that it isn't about fiber optics and lasers; it is about a world class community network built to drive jobs and new opportunities for Carbondale and the region,” said Frontier Senior Vice President and General Manager Mike Flynn.
“Frontier Communications couldn't be more proud to be a part of this community effort as we work every day to provide advancing broadband services across all of Southern Illinois," said Flynn.
Other entities participating in the $1.5 million funding partnership include Southern Illinois University, the City of Carbondale and Connect SI, a regional broadband planning effort serving Illinois' lower 20 counties.
The announcement was made on the opening day of the State Fair in neighboring DuQuoin, Illinois, the second of Illinois' two state fairs.
Brad Housewright, Interim Executive Director at Broadband Illinois, the state-wide non-profit organization that worked with the Governor's office in publicizing and promoting the Gigabit Challenge, said: “Southern Illinois has a long history as a leader in broadband. Through the efforts of Connect SI, Frontier and stakeholders from business and industry, we’re excited to build a public-private partnership around this initiative.”
Frontier's Gigabit Network isn't the first fiber deployment in the region. The Harrisburg, Illinois-based Clearwave Communications recently completed a broadband stimulus-funded project that installed 751 miles of fiber optic wires in 23 counties, and which connected 232 community broadband centers.
For more information about Illinois' role in promoting Gigabit Networks, see "Gigabit Fever Spreads From the Heartland Across the Nation; Giving Gigabit Credit Where Credit is Due," a piece I wrote about three-and-a-half months ago.
To see video from the announcement, please visit http://www.broadbandillinois.org/news/307.
Drew Clark is a nationally-respected broadband expert who founded BroadbandCensus.com and the Broadband Breakfast Club. Follow the news feed for Broadband Census News at http://twitter.com/broadbandcensus. He served as Executive Director of Broadband Illinois from February 2010 to August 2013. BroadbandBreakfast.com tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, programs to advance broadband adoption and use, developments in the universal service fund, and wireless spectrum policy. Drew is also available on Google+ and Twitter.