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Connecting a community Featured

6:46am EDT June 29, 2006
OneCommunity, formerly OneCleveland, has improved the quality of life in Northeast Ohio, provided jobs for many of its residents and stimulated the area’s economic development.

The nonprofit provider of community-based, ultra-broadband networking services was the brainchild of Lev Gonick, OneCommunity chairman and CIO at Case Western Reserve University. Imagining the effect that this technology could have on the community, Gonick, along with Scot Rourke and a handful of others, worked to make his idea a reality.

“It really started as a grassroots initiative with a combination of civic leaders and entrepreneurs about how we could build a technology industry here,” says Rourke, president of OneCommunity.

The company’s goal was to leverage Northeast Ohio’s dark fiber — underground fiber that largely lies dormant — to improve the community’s access to information and resources.

“Since we have (dark fiber) in mass throughout our community, it actually has a million times the capacity of the copper that the rest of the United States is dependent upon for their information and communications technology, like the Internet,” Rourke says. “This actually has potential to be a terrific regional competitive advantage for us, as we can do things like move data and video and high definition, as an example.”

Fiber optic rings were installed by City Signal and First Energy to help OneCommunity create the nation’s first community-wide ultra-broadband network. The nonprofit offers its services to educational organizations, research institutions, local and regional governments, health care organizations, cultural institutions and nonprofit organizations.

Since its founding, OneCommunity has helped teachers expand learning opportunities for their students, helped the poor get access to government services and accelerated medical research by allowing clinicians to seamlessly share data.

“We really help everyone in this community that delivers services,” Rourke says. “We help build their capacity to do it more effectively, also more cost-effectively, and enhance their services, as well. We engage the local tech companies to do this work, so we’re also creating jobs for the many tech companies that we work with, which is one of our favorite things to do. Our goal is to create a very healthy tech community here.”

HOW TO REACH: OneCommunity, (216) 403-0877 or www.onecleveland.org