1Mbps Wireless Chicago
City issues RFP, aims to bridge digital divide
The city of Chicago this week issued a RFP
, seeking private-sector partners to provide Internet access throughout the city, including free wireless service in schools, parks and major public places. "We're fortunate that the United States has some of the most advanced computer technology in the world. The problem is, not everyone has access to it,"
says Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley. The full pdf is here
, and makes clear the winning bidder will need to offer the whole
city 1Mbps access, as well as computers and training for the less affluent; as we saw in Philadelphia.
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Factor in the cost savings: wifi deployment is substantially cheaper than laying cable or (definitely) fiber optic.
Then factor in the economy of scale: This guarantees a *much* wider reach for the winning bidder, increasing the consumer base enormously while guaranteeing customers (monopoly situation). Comcast can't afford to not bid, because it'll mean losing all broadband revenues in Chicago if they lose. SBC can't afford to not win, because it means the same thing for them. They don't want to cut back to just phone line dependence, especially when community wifi results in VOIP taking away a much larger chunk of their business. The same applies to *any* vendor in Chicago or looking to do business in Chicago in telecommunications.
This the future, and I applaud the RFP draft for the emphasis they put on community technologies. If anything, I think there should be stronger language enforcing network neutrality (the basis for net neutrality is already there) and the provision of free high-speed access for community technology initiatives as a basis for supporting digital literacy training efforts.
And to echo another poster's responses above, this is *exactly* like the deployment of a rail system. Chicago profited tremendously from being an industrial hub back in the day when rail lines established trade routes and communications. In today's world, we trade in information and the need is for knowledge workers. If Chicago wants to regain its competitive edge, we need a digitally literate professional workforce. Deploying community technology initiatives to the entire city along with wifi access, with an emphasis on marginalized communities, is an essential requirement. To even suggest otherwise is to endorse a typically entitled perspective that serves to further widen the gap between the have's and the have not's.
My detailed comments on the Chicago Wireless RFP are here: »www.digitalraindrop.com/Chicago-Wifi-RFP