Quinn Grants $1 Million to Evanston in Gigabit Communities Challenge Program

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday announced that Evanston is the third grant recipient in the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge state grant program.

Evanston will receive $1 million toward a $2.5 million project to extend the city's current fiber optic infrastructure by more than 400 access points. It's a plan designed to attract business while improving medical services, education opportunities and research programs at Northwestern University.

The Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge is a competition launched by Quinn to award $4 million in prize funding to the most promising ultra high-speed broadband deployment projects in Illinois as part of the Illinois Jobs Now! economic development program.

Quinn, along with several city, business and university officials, attended a press conference on the grant Friday at the Chicago Main public library in Evanston.

The series of grants is a tool to keep entrepreneurs in Illinois and attract new business, Quinn said Friday. Evanston is home to more than 160 technology start-up companies.

“To compete in the 21st century economy, we must have technology infrastructure that is second to none,” Quinn said. “Internet service that’s 100 times faster than what we have today will help businesses, universities and governments to revolutionize our communities and make them stronger today and in the future.”

Quinn said he's dedicated to keeping Illinois at the forefront of gigabit-speed Internet technology.

"We want to have an innovation corridor," he said. "We want to put out public money behind something that's really important... Hopefully we'll look back on our time, at this year, and think, 'Those folks in 2013, they knew what they were doing. They were investing in the future. They understood what gigabit meant.'" Together we'll make it (ultra high-speed Internet) the law of the land."

Evanston applied for the grant in conjunction with Northwestern University.

With the grant, the city plans to expand its fiber optic cable network through four parts of the city’s innovation corridor. Those areas include Northwestern, the Chicago Main area, the downtown Technology Innovation Center and the Evanston-NU Research Park.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said the plan is an example of a city and university working together to benefit the greater good.

"We really care about the town," Shapiro said. "The future success of the city of Evanston really depends on coming together. It's not just the money, but it's reminding everybody that if we work together, if our entrepreneurs stay in this city and won't move to Silicon Valley."

Bruce Montgomery, president of Montgomery & Co. and a board member of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, also known as Broadband Illinois, spoke at Friday's press conference, stressing the positive power ultra high-speed Internet service can have in the world of business and education.

"Our state is doing the kinds of things people in other states wish they could do," he said. "This is another example here today of taking action on opportunities, especially in our entrepreneurial sector... A community needs to be a part of connectivity. It needs to be a part of broadband. It needs to be a part of the world... I’m very proud to be able to say my governor is leading the country in his work to bring broadband adoption and the next generation of networks to all of the citizens of Illinois."

As part of the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge, Quinn has previously awarded $2 million to jumpstart fiber optic and wireless networks in mid-south Chicago neighborhoods and $1 million to help develop a fiber optic network in Aurora.


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