SSMMA has been working with its member municipalities to improve economic and community development in the region. The lack of high-speed fiber-based broadband has been seen as an impediment for institutions and businesses to choose to locate or expand their presence in the Southland. To address that concern, SSMMA secured funding for the development of the first phase of the Chicago Southland Fiber Network Project, a regional fiber network and infrastructure initiative to provide high speed broadband to multiple locations in the region.
Cook County and SSMMA, with grant funding from the State of Illinois “Illinois Jobs Now” program, aim to construct more than 60 miles of fiber optic backbone infrastructure in the Southern Cook and Eastern Will County corridor spanning 32 initial anchor sites including: south suburban municipalities, public safety sites, community colleges, Cook County anchor facilities, and economic development access sites along, and in proximity to, the I-57 corridor. The fiber optic infrastructure will be used to provide connectivity to high capacity Internet services, Illinois Century Network (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. Click here for a related story in a Cook County blog post, “Chicago Southland Fiber Network Project Begins.”
Background: Southland Telecommunication Needs and Resources
Improved access to broadband technology has been identified as a major goal of great importance to municipalities and the business community in the south suburban region. The South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and our 42 members in southern Cook and Will Counties contracted to work with the Broadband Development Group, Regional Development Institute of Northern Illinois University, to develop a business plan that ultimately builds a regional network to use for enhancing municipal and other government services, including public safety services, and provide an economic development resource for our private sector partners.
Initial funding for this initiative has been provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) with efforts to obtain additional DCEO funds to fund subsequent phases of the project, which is expected to last approximately two years.
The SSMMA/N.I.U. research actions and desired results include:
- Survey the needs and existing costs of municipal communication services. This activity will determine if existing connectivity services meet the needs of communities served in a cost effective manner. It will also assess if money currently spent for connectivity could provide a higher level of service through aggregation of demand and pooling.
- Identify steps to use technology to enhance the services provided by local taxing agencies by consolidation of existing resources or construction of common infrastructure shared by multiple entities.
- Document infrastructure that already exists whether it be fiber, wireless and high capacity links, which can be expanded to provide enhanced capabilities.
- Leverage the value of any work that has been already accomplished. Communities may have implemented projects to better address connectivity needs or costs. Work efforts will be reviewed from a regional basis to identify areas where this existing effort may be expanded to meet regional needs.
- Identify opportunities to boost efforts for economic development. Internet access and connectivity resources will be identified in each community. Bandwidth to attract and retain businesses is critical. Lowered costs for connectivity and internet access may also help attract new business and retain existing businesses.
- Identify concrete steps to diminish issues that may cause local digital divide across our region. Approaches to provide connectivity solutions for underserved communities will be identified.
Municipalities will be working with local schools, libraries, park districts and other public agencies, as well as not-for-profits and the business community throughout the Southland to accomplish this important work. We will seek broad participation and commitment in order to develop a well thought out, actionable implementation plan that benefits our local communities and our region.
For additional information, please contact Ed Paesel at (708) 206-1155 or via email.