e-Team Tackles The ‘Digital Divide’
SSMMA’s new Chicago Southland Fiber Network, Partnership for a Connected Illinois (PCI) and several PCI and State of Illinois DCEO and State Library grantees sat down together January 4 for an “eTeam” meeting to connect and collaborate on ways to eliminate the “digital divide” that plagues economic, educational, healthcare and municipal development in the south suburban Chicago area. Participants included South Suburban College, Family Christian Health Center, Aunt Martha’s Youth Services, Community Assistance Programs, Southland Healthcare Forum, Robbins and South Holland’s public libraries and more. These eCommunity Leadership Teams, or eTeams, meet for the purpose of developing a technology growth plan that encompasses all relevant sectors of the community.
PCI is a statewide nonprofit that works to ensure broadband access throughout the State of Illinois, maximize broadband’s impact and use, and collect and publish broadband-related data, information, and research. They’ve helped to connect schools, hospitals and entire communities to high-speed internet, worked with large fiber deployment projects, led the efforts for major grant programs and hosted regional broadband events.
Cook County and SSMMA received a $6 million grant from the State of Illinois’ “Illinois Jobs Now” program in February 2012, for the pilot project of constructing more than 60 miles of fiber optic backbone infrastructure along I-57 in the southern Cook and eastern Will County corridor. The project also involves installing 32 initial anchor sites including: south suburban municipalities, public safety sites, community colleges, Cook County facilities, and manufacturing or economic development access sites along or near the I-57 corridor.
The fiber optic infrastructure will be used to provide connectivity to high capacity Internet services, ICN access for education and public institutions, and dark fiber resources for both public and private entities to use for point-to-point or multi-point network and data applications.
What this ultimately means is that transmission speeds would jump exponentially from the current top average U.S. connection speed of around 6.7 Megabits per second (Mbp) to 1GigaBit-per-second or a transmission rate of one billion bits of information per second. Such speeds could allow healthcare facilities to quickly transmit x-rays to physicians in emergency situations, education institutions and libraries to steam videos, and manufacturers to ramp up computerized production.