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A Vibrant Community Hub – Since 2016

By Atul Bhatnagar   May 27, 2021

Recent events have revealed to everyone that connectivity makes a difference. Five years ago this week, a number of diverse organizations came together to connect a community hub on Chicago’s South Side. This hub was the first of its kind in the neighborhood: a fixed wireless link extended a network from the city center to provide indoor Wi-Fi and video surveillance. In a matter of days, fixed wireless broadband and Wi-Fi access points rapidly transformed the building into a local neighborhood’s center used for:

  • After school learning
  • Job searching
  • Registering for services
  • Internet access
  • Outdoor video cameras for safety

Eli Williamson, President, Board of Directors, Leave No Veteran Behind said at the “wire cutting,” ceremony: “This is not a wire-cutting about money. This is a wire-cutting about people using their time and talents to get stuff done, and look how much we were able to get done just by people saying, ‘You know what? I’m going to do what I normally do,’ which is connect people, feed them, give them work, provide them power, build new things together – that’s the way things are supposed to work.”

The network has performed well throughout five years of Chicago weather, including icy winters and summer heat and humidity. While the original platform delivered 150 Megabits of speed in 2016, plans are being developed to increase the core speed of the network and also extend coverage to a number of other locations in the neighborhood.

The work of connecting people is never done. We still have so far to go in connecting communities domestically and abroad. As we have seen recently in McAllen, Texas, connectivity can be delivered to improve people’s lives when community leaders and local organizations join together.

Organizations contributing to the South Shore neighborhood project include:

  • Windsor Park Lutheran Church – provided the location for the community center and project areas for youth and veterans.
  • Leave No Veteran Behind – provided on-scene coordination of the connectivity project and ongoing after-school activities for local youth through the S.T.E.M. Corps program.
  • American Wide Broadband – provided local broadband services to the neighborhood.
  • Axis Communications – provided video surveillance equipment for community leaders and church staff.
  • InSPIRE Illinois – provided solar panels to power the park location’s Wi-Fi access.
  • Cambium Networks – provided fixed wireless and Wi-Fi equipment with a management system.
  • WAV – providing assistance in designing network extensions.
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