In many ways it is a tale of two cities: one small and done with Wi-Fi and the other big just embarking on an aggressive plan to infuse wireless and wireline Internet access into every park, business and low-income tenement.
The city of Chicago is planning to use wired and wireless broadband as part of its plan to lure the next-generation companies and start-ups to open shop in the Windy City, dubbed Chicago Broadband Challenge. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said his administration will bridge the digital divide by expanding access to high-speed Internet services to underserved and disadvantaged neighborhoods, as well as increasing Internet access and speeds at institutions like schools, libraries, public safety agencies and parks.
Ketchum, Idaho, which boasts a population of 2,694, on the other hand, is backing away from the provision of free Wi-Fi. The city’s urban renewal agency voted to shut the system down this week citing low usage patterns and unreliable technology, according to the Idaho Mountain Express.
The service was begun in 2007 by Allen & Co. with a $100,000 start-up grant, which dissolved a year later. With the city keeping its annual Wi-Fi expenses to a minimum, the network became degraded and never met the goal of covering the entire city, according to the Boise Weekly.
Half way across the continent, in a metro area of 9.6 million people, a request for information (RFI) was released this week by the City of Chicago seeking ideas for building a broadband infrastructure for the city; extending broadband service into underserved areas; and providing free Wi-Fi access in public spaces throughout the city.
The RFI solicited private sector companies, non-profit organizations and other groups that can participate in establishing Wi-Fi connectivity in every public park, plaza or public space across the city during the next three years. Free Wi-Fi will be initiated this month in Millennium Park through a partnership with SilverIP.
“It is essential that we build a broadband infrastructure network that suits the needs and desires of Chicagoans,” said John Tolva, chief technology officer for the City of Chicago. “By asking for public input and using it to design the best possible system, we’ll ensure that Chicago’s broadband infrastructure is not only the fastest in the country, but the best suited to create jobs and drive our economy forward in the 21st century.”
The high-speed data initiative is part of the city’s overall economic development effort to grow its technology economy, with 20 technology companies committing to create more than 2,000 jobs, collectively, by 2015.
To take part in the RFI, go to the interactive website: www.cityofchicago.org/broadband