City Council News

Aldermen Propose Moving Forward With Bold Plan to Build a Citywide Wireless System

Following months of public hearings, the City of Chicago should
solicit bids from the private sector to build a citywide wireless
network, Alderman Margaret Laurino, Alderman Edward M. Burke, and
Alderman Manuel Flores said today.
Aldermen Laurino, Burke, and Flores introduced for consideration to
the City Council an order that would direct the city's Department of
Business and Information Systems to issue a "request for proposal" for
the project by early 2006.
When completed, Chicago's network could become the nation's largest.
If the city goes forward within a timely period, it is estimated that
ground could be broken as soon as next year.
The push by Council members to take the next step comes just after
the city's Wireless Task Force, chaired by Alderman Laurino and
Alderman Burke, completed the final in a series of four public hearing
which solicited input from residents, academics and business leaders
from across the city.
The city's blue-ribbon panel sought public input on plans to build a
multi-million dollar, publicly-owned, but privately operated, wireless
system which would allow computer users across Chicago to operate their
laptop much like a cordless telephone without wires. The system would
also allow Chicagoans and businesses to avail themselves of
broadband/high-speed internet access.
Completion of the high-tech system would rely upon the strategic
placement of hundreds of so-called "access point" atop of building and
light posts across Chicago. The City is seeking to enter into a
long-term agreement which would provide for a private sector company to
assume the costs of constructing and operating the multi-million dollar
high-tech system.
In turn, the company selected by the city would recover the
construction and operational costs by receiving the bulk of the revenue
generated by the system. For the City's part, it would also receive a
smaller portion of the revenue and not have to assume the financial
burden of building or operating a wireless internet system. As part of
any such franchise agreement, the city would seek to hammer out an
accord with the franchisee which would guarantee low-cost wireless
internet service to the public across Chicago.
Last month, the City of Philadelphia selected Atlanta-based
EarthLink to implement a 135-mile citywide network across that
municipality, a project which is expected to be completed by late 2006.
Milwaukee has also announced plans to build a citywide wireless network
and dozens of similar systems are being considered across the country
by San Francisco, Houston, Portland, Minneapolis, Sacramento and New
Orleans.