Downtown Chicago could become a giant Wi-Fi zone

Chicago's downtown area could become a gigantic Wi-Fi mega-hotspot under plans reportedly being laid out by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

A Wi-Fi zone covering all of downtown Chicago is part of Emanuel's plan to make the city into one of the world's most connected metropolitan centers, according to an article in the Guardian.

"Emanuel has instructed officials to examine the technical and financial implications of turning the whole of downtown Chicago into a wireless network zone. Under the plans, the city's traffic and street lights would be turned into smart polls, ensuring unbroken Internet access throughout the city center that would be extended underground across the entire CTA subway system," said the article.

The city has already made some changes regarding existing Wi-Fi services in its two airports. On June 22, the Chicago Department of Aviation announced it would begin offering free Wi-Fi access to some websites at Chicago airports within the next six weeks via a deal with Boingo Communications, which already provides public Internet access at the airports for $6.95 a day. According to the Chicago Tribune. the deal being worked out between the city and Boingo "does not yet include access to email platforms but is expected to include a limited period of time to access email at no charge."

Chicago has had a love-hate relationship with municipal Wi-Fi services. Back in August 2007, the city gave up on ambitious plans to blanket a 228-square-mile area with Wi-Fi service after deciding the plan would require massive public financing that the city was not prepared to supply.

Municipal Wi-Fi networks are starting to see something of a resurgence after earlier projects were scuttled due to high costs and low adoption. For example, the city of Longmont, Colo., recently began offering free Wi-Fi service in seven city parks. The launch came a couple of years after another muni Wi-Fi network in the city's downtown area was shuttered. However, it remains unclear if the new generation of muni Wi-Fi launches will have better success than predecessor networks as many questions remain regarding network costs and customer service adoption.

For more:
- see this Guardian article

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