Broadband-Economic Development Conference in Tinley Park
Photo credit: Larry Burrows
About 500 participants from the United States, Canada, and as far as the United Kingdom, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sweden and Bangladesh convened at a Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference held at the Tinley Park Convention Center on Nov. 5-7, 2013.
Major events of the three-day event included a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the convention center, which is a key anchor site, marking the lighting of the Chicago Southland Fiber Network (CSFN). When the newly installed broadband network is fully operational, it will offer advanced communications capabilities to improve healthcare, institutes of education, municipal services, and public safety as well as foster economic development and create jobs throughout the Southland.
After the ceremony, Assistant Director Dan Seals of the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity was on hand to accept a “Gigabits for Growth” award on behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn. About two years ago, the Governor awarded the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA), in partnership with the Cook County Bureau of Technology, with a $6.1 million grant from the “Jobs First” capital grant funding program to build the fiber network.
Similarly, at another event, Kate Yager, Deputy Chief of Policy for the City of Chicago, accepted a Broadband Leadership award on behalf or Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his robust support of advanced technology.
The conference also featured the CSFN story (see “Investing in our Future” video here). The CSFN project is a collaboration of state and local agencies, including SSMMA, Cook County, the State of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), to link infrastructure in south suburban Cook County through a fiber optic backbone bordering the I-57 corridor. The fiber network constructed by SSMMA will be operated by the CSFN. CSFN’s primary mission is to provide state-of-the-art broadband services to educational, governmental, healthcare and other public interest institutions in the south suburban Chicago area.
The conference featured an additional array of other broadband workshops and panels including education and distance learning, telemedicine, precision agriculture (fiber-to-the-farm), municipal and public safety initiatives, financing networks, using broadband to create jobs, helping small and medium businesses grow with fiber and more.
For eight years, SSMMA worked with its member municipalities to improve communications capacity which impacted economic and community development in the region. The lack of high-speed fiber-based broadband has long been viewed as an impediment for institutions and businesses to choose to locate or expand their presence in the Southland.
Beginning in February of 2012, the I-57 fiber cable was installed in partnership with Cook County and the State of Illinois, Central Managed Services. Fiber optic cable construction will continue throughout the fall to finish linking sites all the way from University Park connecting Governor’s State University, Richton Park, SouthCom Joint Dispatch in Matteson, and continuing on to locations in Dixmoor, Blue Island and the Markham courthouse, reaching over 30 facilities in communities bordering I-57. The project is scheduled to be completed by January 2014.
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