Civic leaders call for city wireless network
November 14, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
The White Sox are world
champions, but where is Chicago when it comes to wireless broadband
access? Are we behind Philadelphia, San Francisco and even our
neighbor to the north, Milwaukee?
City Council task force co-chaired by Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and
Margaret Laurino (39th) is looking at the issue. Burke and Laurino
have done yeopeople's work pushing for improved Internet service
for the neighborhoods. City of Chicago CIO Chris O'Brien is hot
on the issue. The Metropolitan Planning Council's vice president
for planning and policy, Scott Goldstein, is a longtime and thoughtful
Burke and Laurino recently
concluded community hearings at Truman College, the West Side
Learning Center and the South Shore Cultural Center. They heard
a consistent message. "People want this service within their
community," says Laurino. "If we are capable of bringing
it to the neighborhoods, they are going to use it.
"Our goal is a
wireless network from Rogers Park to Englewood. We're not tech
specialists, but we know what the neighborhoods need. If you want
to apply for a job at Jewel-Osco you have to get online. Teachers
need to communicate with parents online."
world is flat
In an increasingly
flat world, fast, secure and inexpensive access to the Internet
is as important to Chicago's economy as access to electricity,
natural gas, clean water and waste disposal. It's a good sign
that local politicians such as Burke and Laurino recognize technology
infrastructure is important to neighborhood business success.
"We want to make
sure broadband is thought of like roads and other infrastructure,"
says Goldstein of the Planning Council. "We need a policy
to assure the infrastructure is available. The city should work
with the private sector."
O'Brien, the city's
CIO, advocates improved Wi-Fi access.
"This is an idea
with merit," he says. "If we spend the right amount
of time talking with people in the community, we'll find the right
model that uniquely fits Chicago."
Where's the effort
heading? Watch for an RFP to be issued by the city seeking a pilot
project to expand Wi-Fi access in targeted neighborhoods. Then
watch for a proposal to put a Wi-Fi canopy over the entire city.
rolling out their Wi-Fi program," says Laurino. "It's
getting too close to home when Milwaukee is talking about Wi-Fi."
In a world that's flat,
where Chicago companies compete with firms from Bangalore and
Beijing, it's important all Chicagoans have Internet access. Thanks
to Burke, Laurino, O'Brien and Goldstein, the groundwork has been
laid for Mayor Daley to create a public/private partnership that
assures wireless Internet availability.
Speaking of a flat
world, Chicago's tech community is growing closer to India. Tuesday,
American Airlines inaugurates non-stop service between O'Hare
and New Delhi. Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center President David
Weinstein will be on board, along with World Business Chicago
Executive Director Paul O'Connor, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
President Jerry Roper and Economic Club President Grace Barry.
Adarsh Arora and Silicon Valley Bank exec Bob Blee are opening
doors for Weinstein to link Chicago's entrepreneurs with those
in India. Weinstein aims to make Chicago a gateway to the U.S.
for India's entrepreneurs.
Button Bell, chief marketing officer for Emerson, the
technology and engineering solutions company, hits town Thursday
to speak at the Business Marketing Association lunch at the Metropolitan
Club. ... SunTimes Business Editor Dan Miller
moderates the Executives' Club luncheon panel on affordable energy
Thursday at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Panelists are Exelon
CEO John Rowe, Natural Resources Defense Council
director Ralph Cavanagh and U.S. Department of
Energy deputy assistant secretary David Conover.
for female CIOs is the topic of Wednesday's Society for Information
Management lunch at the Mid America Club. Headliners include Bally
Total Fitness CIO Gail Holmberg, Metropolitan
Pier and Exposition Authority CIO Ellen Barry
and Abbott Group Vice President for IT Sue Leboza.
President Praveen Gupta speaks on catalyzing
the innovation process at tomorrow night's MIT Enterprise Forum
at the offices of Gardner Carton & Douglas.
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.