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November 17, 2009

New Gold Standard for Smart Connected Communities: Case Western Reserve University Announces 1,000 mb/sec fiber to the home research project

The Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at the Mandel School for Applied Social Science at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland estimates that as many as 72% of the households in and around the University have no Internet access at all. On a national scale neighbors of the University have as much Internet access as Panamanians or Vietnamese. Broadband Internet access in neighborhoods like East Cleveland, Fairfax, Glenville, Buckeye Shaker and Hough are a small fraction of those who have basic Internet connectivity. Being unconnected is only one indicator of a community ‘at risk’ in the 21st century. As many as three out of five (60%) of the University’s neighbors are on food stamps. Four out of five (80%) newborns in some of the census tracks around the University are enrolled in Medicaid. Foreclosures in the area are as a high as one out of every three households. As the neighborhood witnessed, and the world watched and read these past two weeks, violence in some of our neighborhoods can be horrific. In urban America the debate over broadband is not about whether it exists but rather whether it is relevant to the needs of neighbors like those around our University. If broadband Internet connectivity is to have any relevance at all, it must be about safety in the neighborhood, health and wellness starting with the basics like nutrition, obesity and diabetes, and education for the young people in our city, their parents and grandparents. Broadband Internet connectivity in the areas around University Circle in Cleveland have little, if anything, to do with marketing gimmicks like ‘triple play’ or ‘download your favorite aps’. Sustainable use and adoption of Internet connectivity in our neighborhoods is about basic human needs. If broadband doesn’t speak to urgent needs around public and personal safety, health and wellness, and a wide range of educational initiatives that all point to the here and now, Internet access is and will remain largely irrelevant.

This week, with no marketing campaign, fancy promotions, or Hollywood celebrities, Case Western Reserve University launches an initiative to roll out a new gold standard for creating a smart connected community around University Circle. The standard, 1,000 mb/second, that is switched gigabit over fiber optics marks and meets an international competitive bar that we believe can be sustained for no less than ten years of use on infrastructure that will last no less than 30 years. The university is currently scoping a formal university research project to connect the first 100 households in the immediate area the university as a ‘beta block’. An unprecedented collaboration of university researchers, technologists, public sector institutional partners in the region, and vendors will bring neighbors around the University the same quality Internet connectivity that students, faculty, and staff enjoy on the campus. The University Circle Innovation Zone beta block will be a research project conducted by the University in cooperation with more than 40 institutional partners, technology vendors, and community organizations. Eventually, the University Circle Innovation Zone seeks to connect more than 25,000 residents.

The research program has specific metrics and goals that include contributing to the reduction of the incidents of violence and crime, increasing completion rates of high school in STEM subjects, better identification of chronic health conditions along with increases in monitoring and ultimately, through wellness education, the reduction of the deleterious impacts of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, and better knowledge of and participation in household and neighborhood energy education and management. The research efforts are being directed by principal investigators at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, Metro Health, STEM high school hub in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve, the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, the Faculty of Engineering and the Great Lakes Energy Institute, public institutional partners in the City of Cleveland and East Cleveland, and a coalition of public safety forces. Though a small and circumscribed research program, the University hopes to learn in the near term what technology and solutions prove relevant and consequential as it pursues efforts to scale the University Circle Innovation Zone.

A smart connected community is a portfolio of endeavors to leverage broadband technologies to affect positive change in the lives of neighbors and in the communities where we live, work, and play. The University Circle Innovation Zone gigabit to the home research project is being supported by unprecedented co-investments by the research community, start up ventures in Cleveland and around the region, and major underwriting support by an “A” group of technology vendors, partners, and thought leaders who, along with Case Western Reserve University, believe in the efficacy of testing and analyzing the impact that broadband can have on real challenges and priorities of the community.

As the project works its way through our Institutional Research Board (IRB) and the various layers of review of our partners I hope to be able to share more about this effort along with many other coalition partners in this smart connected community venture.

Lev Gonick
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH
November 17, 2009

Posted by lsg8 at November 17, 2009 07:02 AM and tagged

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Sounds totally exciting.

The class I'll be teaching - will be part of this effort. We'll make sure that the residents of Hessler St. will all have an exciting, relevant set of solutions and a powerful, flexible dashboard from which to run their 'digital lifestyles'.


Posted by: Marc Canter at November 17, 2009 10:24 AM

Lev - great perspective of what is possible when people work together. Broadband is a resource just like energy - the more we have the more productive we can become.

Thank you for taking the time to pull this together

Mark Hewitt
editor - Broadband 2.0

Posted by: Mark Hewitt at November 17, 2009 01:26 PM

Hi Lev,

I am a recent CWRU (May '09) grad, and I currently work at Cuyahoga Community College's Metro campus. A significant portion of the students I see there have limited to no technology skills; I would hazard a guess that the average tech literacy level of the residents in the neighborhoods surrounding CWRU are similarly low.

I am very interested to see how this major obstacle is addressed- through workshops, or tutoring, etc.

I am pleased to see that CWRU has identified the Internet access gap as an area worthy of study; from my experience transitioning from CWRU to Tri-C, the IT gap (in general) will be increasingly significant as time goes on.

I will be watching this project with great interest.


Posted by: Ashley Solomon at November 18, 2009 07:17 PM

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