City Council News

Chicago Community Wireless Network RFP


Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Mayor Richard M. Daley announced a plan today to provide affordable
broadband Internet service to all Chicagoans and to make computers more
widely available to low-income residents.
The Mayor announced the City is issuing a Request for Proposals
(RFP) seeking private-sector partners to provide Internet access
throughout the city, including free wireless service in schools, parks
and major public places.
He also offered $250,000 in grants to help community groups come up
with innovative ways to help close the digital divide, and he appointed
an advisory panel to make further recommendations on the issue.
"In the 21st century economy, everyone needs to have access to
computer technology to succeed in life. Computer literacy is a
fundamental skill in the modern world," Daley said at a news conference
at Al Raby School for Community and Environment, 3545 W. Fulton St.
"We're fortunate that the United States has some of the most
advanced computer technology in the world. The problem is, not everyone
has access to it.
"In technology, as in too many other areas of our society, there's a
wide gap between the haves and have-nots. It's known as the digital
divide - and the people on the wrong side of the divide generally have
lower incomes and less education."
According to one estimate, even though Internet use has been on the
rise among most Americans, 80 percent of households with incomes below
$50,000 remain unconnected.
The Mayor noted that Chicago leads many other cities in making modern technology available across the city.
Chicago is the first big city to have free wireless Internet access
throughout its public library system. Other public "hot spots" include
Millennium Park, the Cultural Center and Daley Plaza.
The Chicago Public Schools have invested more than $600 million in
technology infrastructure since 1995. They provide Internet access in
every school and have more than doubled the number of school computers
since 2003, lowering the student-to-computer ratio from 10 to 1 to 7 to
1. More than 80 percent of elementary schools and 92 percent of high
schools have Internet access in every classroom, laboratory and
library.
"But there is more to be done to assure that everyone in our city
has the same access to modern, affordable Internet technology," the
Mayor said.
Under the Mayor's plan, the City would partner with a private firm
or consortium to develop and deploy a high-speed, wireless network.
The City would offer the long-term use of its infrastructure, such
as street lights and lamp poles. If necessary, the City would broker
agreements with its sister agencies and local utilities to use their
infrastructure, as well.
The City's private-sector partner or partners would be expected to provide:

  • Affordable, universal Internet access. Chicago's wireless
    broadband network must reach every neighborhood * and offer free or
    low-cost service to every Chicagoan.
  • Free access in the
    Chicago Public Schools. Building on the success of the free wireless
    "hot spots" in all 79 Chicago Public Library branches, the new network
    must include similar "hot spots" in all public schools and ensure that
    schools have modern computers and applications.
  • Free
    access in parks and other public places. High-traffic public areas,
    such as Chicago's lakefront, Museum Campus and popular parks and other
    neighborhoods destinations in the will also be candidates for free
    access to the new network.
  • Affordable computers and
    meaningful applications. Closing the Digital Divide means more than
    just free or low-cost access to the Internet. It also means access to
    affordable computers, meaningful software programs and computer
    training programs. Chicago's private-sector partner must make a
    financial commitment to these types of digital inclusion programs.

Daley also announced the formation of an advisory council chaired by
Julia Stasch, Vice President of the Program on Human and Community
Development of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The
group will recommend ways to use technology to improve classroom
learning and to connect Chicago's poor and working families to broader
economic and educational opportunities.
The Mayor commended Aldermen Edward M. Burke (14th) and Margaret
Laurino (39th), who formed a task force which held public hearings on
this issue, and who sponsored the legislation authorizing the RFP being
issued today.
"When we make modern computer and Internet technology available
across Chicago, we are giving every person in Chicago the same chance
for a good life," Daley said. "We're improving our children's
education. We're working to end poverty. We're creating a more modern,
sophisticated workforce. And, most important, we're creating hope and
opportunity."