City of Chicago releases community wireless broadband network RFP for comment - Metropolitan Planning Council

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City of Chicago releases community wireless broadband network RFP for comment

The public is invited to comment on an innovative Request for Proposals to expand broadband to all neighborhoods of the city of Chicago.

In an unusual move, the City of Chicago is seeking public comment until June 14 of a draft Wireless Broadband Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP will pave the way for the city to take advantage of its unique position of being one of the world’s centers for Internet infrastructure, by making it more available to the city’s citizens and businesses, particularly low-income residents without access to affordable broadband infrastructure.

As the RFP states:

“In times past, Chicagoans have overcome natural obstacles by innovating and building upon the city’s assets – thereby changing the course of history. In the 19th Century, when Chicago was a muddy outpost of about 20,000 people, Milwaukee and St. Louis seemed better poised to become gateways to the western frontiers. Chicago changed history by having the foresight to focus on transportation as an economic driver: first by creating a canal system, later by staking out a plan to become the nation’s primary railway hub and most recently by being home to the world’s busiest airport.

Just as Chicago has become world-renowned for our ability to move people and goods, our next challenge is to ensure that we have the infrastructure and human capital in place to move ideas. This represents the basis for the City’s vision for this initiative.”

The objectives of the initiative are to:

  • Ensure universal and affordable high-speed Internet access for all Chicago residents, businesses and visitors to the city, paying specific attention to low-income populations and underserved areas;
  • Enhance education through the use of technology and improve the interaction between teachers, students and parents;
  • Promote job creation, business growth and economic development; and
  • Improve the efficiency of government service delivery.

MPC has advised the City of Chicago through a number of task forces and advisory committees over the years to to work with the private sector to ensure all neighborhoods have access to broadband, especially small to mid-size businesses that are often not reached at affordable levels.

The RFP, released on May 30, calls for a winning team to provide:

  • Universal service: The network must be universally available throughout the City;
  • Affordable: High-speed access must be available at an affordable level for underserved Chicagoans;
  • Open access: The network must be built on open standards and allow for greatest open access to retail vendors;
  • Investment in digital inclusion: Proposals must include clearly articulated plans for reducing the digital divide.

The city is proposing a public-private partnership model whereby the city will not own the network, and will not provide financial subsidies to the network. The city is willing to “grant negotiated access to its street light poles, traffic signal poles and other infrastructure on a non-exclusive basis.”

The RFP hits on a number of issues that MPC has been concerned about, including expanding access to broadband in the neighborhoods, providing strategies to expand digital inclusion efforts throughout the city, providing fixed services to businesses at a speed of at least 3 Mbps (equivalent to T1 service), and an open network that will spark additional investment in technology infrastructure in the city.

Make your voice heard! The city is interested in comments on the proposal.

Chicago 's Broadband Wireless DRAFT RFP is published and is available at . Please send your comments to before June 14th, 2006.

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