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
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.