A 21st century digital infrastructure is critical to supporting Chicago’s long-term growth, job creation, global competitiveness, and overall quality of life. Mayor Emanuel is committed to making the investments required to ensure that Chicago is prepared to meet the demands of the modern economy and position Chicago as a global leader in technology and innovation.
Mayor Emanuel’s Broadband Challenge seeks to accomplish the following 3 goals:
- Create a low-price gigabit-speed network to serve businesses, universities, and other organizations in key commercial and industrial corridors.
- Establish free wireless service in parks and public spaces citywide.
- Increase accessibility and affordability of internet service in underserved residential areas.
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Since the launch of the Broadband Challenge in 2012, the City has made substantial progress in improving internet access and digital literacy programming for all Chicagoans
1. Create a low-price gigabit-speed network to serve businesses, universities, and other organizations in key commercial and industrial corridors.
In early 2015, the City will release a Request for Proposals (RFP) to four telecommunications vendors pre-selected through an open Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process in 2014. This RFP seeks to develop a gigabit speed network to serve seven core Innovation Zones across the city, providing businesses, universities, and other organizations with gigabit speed broadband at prices drastically below current market rates.
The City is offering a variety of assets to support network build-out, including City-owned fiber, public building rooftops, light poles, and other support that will help build the network to foster innovation, drive job creation, and stimulate economic growth across the city.
2. Establish free wireless service in parks and public spaces citywide.
The City continues to work with partners to provide free wireless service at public spaces around the city. Since 2012, the following parks and public areas have been lit with wireless service through various public-private partnerships:
- In 2014, the City partnered with Google to provide free wireless service at Garfield Park and the South Shore Cultural Center.
- In 2013, a pilot program with Cisco and Everywhere Wireless was launched to provide free wireless service at North Avenue, Osterman/Hollywood, Montrose, Foster, and Rainbow beaches.
- Since 2012, SilverIP Communications has continued to provide wireless service at Millennium Park.
Additionally, improvements have been made to the free wireless services available at Chicago Public Library branches, City Colleges of Chicago, and other City facilities to accommodate additional users. Thanks to the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, free wireless is now available at 21 senior centers, six community service centers, and other public buildings located across the city.
3. Increase accessibility and affordability of internet service in underserved residential areas.
A fully connected city ensures its workforce, residents, seniors, and students are fully connected and properly trained in digital literacy in order to stay competitive in a 21st century economy. The City continues to make the needed investments that allow residents to access the internet and technology training they need. Examples of these initiatives include, but are not limited to, the following:
Comcast Internet Essentials
Internet Essentials provides low-cost broadband services to underserved communities. As a result of outreach and training conducted by the City and non-profit partners, Chicago continues to top the nation in Internet Essentials program enrollment. Since 2012, the program has more than tripled, growing from serving 7,000 families to 22,000 families, or an estimated 85,000 individuals, across the city. For more information, visit www.internetessentials.com.
Internet to Go
In early summer 2015, the Chicago Public Library will launch its “Internet to Go” pilot program at three branches—Brighton Park, Greater Grand Crossing and Douglas—in neighborhoods where at-home broadband access is particularly low. The program enables anyone with a Library card to check out Wi-Fi hotspots and laptops or tablets for up to three weeks at a time and receive digital literacy and skills coaching. Internet to Go is supported through a $400,000 grant by the Knight Foundation and $175,000 from Google. The program will expand to three additional branches by the end of the summer.
Launched in 2012, Connect Chicago is a network of over 250 locations in Chicago where residents can access the internet and technology training. More than 8.6 million hourly computer and technology training sessions are provided on an annual basis to Chicago residents at libraries, senior centers, community service centers, workforce and youth centers, Family Net Centers, Smart Health Centers, and other non-profit organizations.
Over the past few years, the City has opened 49 new centers, deployed more than 3,000 new computers, improved broadband speeds at libraries, and added or improved wireless at libraries, senior centers, and community service centers. Residents can find nearby technology access and training opportunities at www.weconnectchicago.org or by calling 311.