Chicago wants to create a city-wide wireless Internet signal that would allow residents and visitors to surf the Web from anywhere.
The city this spring will solicit bids from technology companies to build and offer the wireless broadband -- or Wi-Fi -- service.San Francisco, Milwaukee and other cities also are working to build city-wide wireless Internet service.Chicago officials say the project would allow easier Internet access to low-income people and would attract businesses to the city.
City technology guru Chris O'Brien said yesterday that the system would be paid for by whatever private vendor is chosen to build it.
I was all set to blast the city of Chicago for another costly measure that was bound to fail, but this just has me flabbergasted. Chicago wants a vendor to come in, build a network – on their own dime – and offer the server at “low” rates so that the poor can afford it.
Why wouldn’t a company do that of their own volition? Isn’t that basically how markets work? Isn’t this also what is already happening in Chicago? It has one of the densest populations of Wi-Fi of any city in the country. Exactly what incentives are city bureaucrats offering companies to extend the service into underserved neighborhoods?
About the only criticism I have of this press release is the concept that municipal Wi-Fi would somehow attract business. Businesses would never leverage the service so I’m not sure what attraction there would be that someone would choose Chicago over another (presumably non-Wi-Fi) city.
The long and the short is that this is much ado about nothing.