Spurring Innovation Through Illinois Gov. Quinn’s Gigabit Challenge
As the June 30, 2012, deadline for Governor Pat Quinn’s Illinois Gigabit Community Challenge approaches, contenders across the state are putting the finishing touches on plans to expand ultra high-speed internet throughout their communities. This competition is the first of its kind for Illinois. The stakes are high: A total of $6 million in capital funding will be awarded to the most promising deployment projects.
By investing in broadband technology and capitalizing on the innovation of Illinoisans, our citizens will be able to find and apply for jobs faster, participate in distance learning courses, access telehealth and eGovernment tools, and spur economic growth. Deploying ultra-high speed bandwidth will ensure that Illinois is an appealing place for businesses to locate and for college graduates to find careers and establish families.
Announced in February during the State of the State address, the Gigabit Challenge was funded by the multi-year “Illinois Jobs Now!” capital development plan. While these funds were previously used to jumpstart fiber builds and connect community anchor institutions in 2010 and 2011, the Gigabit Challenge is a new opportunity to “unleash the savvy of our entrepreneurs, the brainpower of our academics, and the creativity of our innovators,” Governor Quinn said.
While other Gigabit initiatives like Google’s Gigabit Challenge and the Gig.U consortium, have prompted ultra high-speed efforts in cities, Governor Quinn’s challenge is unique nationally in that the criteria is fairly flexible. Any private or public entity may apply to connect at least 1,000 end users to robust broadband capacity.
In the past five months, our eTeams have worked with about two dozen providers and communities to build partnerships interested in this challenge. We seek to promote all applicants so as to ensure high-speed Internet is a priority in more and more locations within Illinois. We hosted a series of webinars, facilitated questions and answers about the challenge and provided mapping resources.
The available funding will not permit all applicants to receive awards. We will continue to work with all applicants, winners as well as losers, to build upon the great partnerships being built as a result of this challenge.
For more information about the Gigabit Challenge, visit www.gigabit.illinois.gov and www.broadbandillinois.org/news/102.
Drew Clark is the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, a State Broadband Initiative organization based in Abraham Lincoln's Springfield. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter. He founded BroadbandCensus.com, and BroadbandBreakfast.com and he brings experts and practitioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives.