Chicago seeking private sector's help in providing Internet access
May 30, 2006 (Last Updated: 10:16:45 PM) (WLS) -- There is a new plan that could bring wireless internet service to millions of people. Mayor Daley unveiled an ambitious idea Tuesday that could mean citywide affordable internet service.
The Bean Addiction is a West Loop coffee shop that specializes in latte, but they also get customers looking for a relaxing place to do a little work on their computers. That is why they have free Wi-Fi access.
"On a daily basis, we have plenty of customers ask about it or utilize it for business or personal e-mail," said Don Ziol, co-owner.
If Mayor Daley has his way, you could soon have wireless computer access like that all over the city. The mayor wants affordable internet access to all neighborhoods, with free hot spots in schools, and free access in public places like parks and museums. He also wants to provide inexpensive computer equipment to low-income residents.
"No other city has done this in America. They've talked about it, but I think we'll be the first to move as quickly as possible," said Daley.
The mayor also hopes to narrow the so-called digital divide. Right now, among households with less than $50,000 a year income, only about 20 percent have internet access. Students at the Illinois Institute of Technology are trying to help by providing tutoring, making computers relevant.
"We aren't going to wake up tomorrow and have computers not there. Every job is going to be tied to a computer in some way. Every fast food is going to be tied to a computer and so there is no way to escape," said Joy Robinson, Illinois Institute of Technology.
"I think the issue is putting this technology into young people's hands in a way that they understand how to use it relevantly and appropriately to enhance their education, get jobs, create business," said David Baker, Illinois Institute of Technology.
The mayor issued a request for proposals from equipment and service providers Tuesday. Experts say, now that the ball is rolling, we could see some locations in the city with wireless access as early as the end of the year.
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