Broadband Communities

AUG-SEP 2013

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Revitalizing the Chicago Southland A Rust Belt region jump-starts its economic turnaround by building a middle-mile fber network. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities S tretching southward from Chicago for some 40 miles through Cook and Will counties is a collection of cities and villages known as the Chicago Southland. Traditionally blue-collar and industrial, the area sufered the dislocations typical of the entire Rust Belt as steel mills and other heavy industry disappeared. Some closer-in suburbs became popular with metro area residents priced out of Chicago's northern suburbs and fared relatively well. Te village of Tinley Park, for example, was designated the "best place in America to raise kids" by BloombergBusinessweek in 2009 because of its good schools, accessibility to Chicago and relatively afordable housing. Tis year, the village of Homewood ranked third in CNN Money's list of best places to live where homes are afordable. Other parts of the Southland were harder hit by job losses and widespread mortgage foreclosures. After the housing market collapse, southern Cook County had the highest foreclosure rate in Illinois; some communities could not even keep up with maintenance and code enforcement on abandoned homes. Many commercial properties are still vacant today. Forty-two cities and villages in the Southland participate in a regional organization, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA), through which they work cooperatively on the region's pressing issues – economic development, transportation, land use, infrastructure, public safety, housing and more. By the mid-2000s, SSMMA realized that poor broadband infrastructure was a limiting factor in the Southland, discouraging institutions and businesses from locating or expanding there. 20 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | With the help of a $190,000 state grant, SSMMA contracted with the Broadband Development Group of Northern Illinois University (NIU) to determine what type of broadband infrastructure the area needed. NIU broadband consultant Rusty Winchel notes that he was originally asked to investigate community wireless broadband. However, he says, "We brought in data that showed residential users and small to midsized businesses were well served, but anyone who needed more than a couple of megabits per second was not. We strongly pushed fber infrastructure with a gigabit or more of connectivity, and we identifed 450 locations, including 175 schools, that needed that kind of connectivity." A FIBER NETwORk IS LAUNChED As a result of NIU's study, the association determined that the Southland needed a regional fber optic network and began applying for grants. August/september 2013

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