Why We Helped Connect a Chicago Community for Free

By Ray Savich   May 19, 2016

With the tremendous progress that’s been made in connecting the global population, it can be easy to forget that many Americans still lack access to a high-speed connection. Communities across the U.S. are living in digital deserts.

Unfortunately, those earning less than $20,000 annually or lacking a college education are often at the heart of these deserts. It’s common for large service providers to ignore low-income areas entirely – they don’t want to risk deploying expensive, time-consuming cable and fiber installations if they don’t think the community will be able to afford high-speed Internet. As a result, residents of digital deserts find themselves with very few options.

From finding employment to navigating the healthcare system, low broadband access acts as a barrier across many facets of life for these residents. Students in particular bear the brunt of the problem as they struggle to complete online homework assignments and gain access to the same resources and opportunities that others have – creating a vicious cycle.

This is why Leave No Veteran Behind, Windsor Park Lutheran Church and Cambium Networks partnered to provide needed connectivity right here on our home turf. By pooling resources, the Windsor Park community in Chicago’s South Shore has created an Internet oasis for the whole neighborhood.

By turning the Church into a high-speed broadband hub – complete with a computer lab and Wi-Fi – we’ve created a place where underserved students can study, participate in extracurricular programs, and learn about wireless technology from volunteer veterans who helped deploy the network. Adults also use it regularly to access professional development programs and online training tools.

Even the nearby Rainbow Restaurant has joined the effort, using the wireless network to provide an extra free Wi-Fi hotspot. And last but not the least, the network supports video surveillance cameras that help keep the community and churchgoers safe.

We still have so far to go in connecting low-income communities domestically and abroad, but I wanted to highlight the amazing work that can happen when community leaders and organizations join together to find a solution. A special thanks to everyone involved over the past two years:

  • 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.

And of course, I want to thank long-time Cambium Networks employee Ray Savich, whose idea it was to donate our equipment to this worthy cause.