Broadband wireless coming to a corner near you - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Broadband wireless coming to a corner near you

The City of Chicago is moving to develop high speed broadband wireless access throughout the city to spur economic development and meet the needs of underserved areas.

On Monday, Dec. 5, the Chicago City Council Finance Committee, chaired by Ald. Edmund M. Burke, voted unanimously to "direct the Department of Business Services and the Office of Management and Budget, to prepare a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an infrastructure needed to develop ubiquitous, high speed broadband wireless access in the City of Chicago, with an associated public benefits program to ensure the effective use of such wireless access by Chicago's low and moderate income citizens." The order was passed on to the full City Council, and aldermen requested a special hearing in two weeks to review progress by city departments toward the order.

Research undertaken by the Metropolitan Planning Council in 2004 was critical in building support for the action. MPC provided testimony to an earlier Joint Committee on Finance and Economic Development, which included maps showing the mismatch between supply and demand for broadband in Chicago's neighborhoods. For example, according to the research, one in five small and mid-size businesses in Chicago does not have access to DSL.

As a member of a Chicago Wireless Task Force that has been convened by Ald. Margaret Laurino, MPC worked with organizations such as One Economy, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the Chicago Entrepreneurship Center to develop recommendations calling for one or more demonstration projects as well as issuing a city-wide RFP.

MPC was asked to provide assistance following one of the major recommendations of a Campaign for Sensible Growth / Urban Land Institute Chicago technical assistance panel (TAP) for the Peterson Pulaski Industrial Corridor on the northwest side of Chicago. One of the TAP's major findings was that businesses did not have access to broadband options - from DSL to cable modem to affordable fiber.

The Council will continue to monitor progress toward broadband availability in the city of Chicago, and offer its assistance in using technology to stimulate economic redevelopment in underserved neighborhoods.

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