The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, has proposed the creation of a downtown Wi-Fi network as part of an ambitious plan to revitalize the city and upgrade its physical and broadband infrastructure. There was already a plan to deploy Wi-Fi citywide in Chicago back in 2006-2007 when Earthlink and other companies had submitted bids to unwire the city. EarthLink dropped its municipal WiFi business in 2007, thereby ending its negotiations with the city, and Chicago never put the project out to a public tender again.
Although Rahm Emanuel’s plan is not as ambitious as the original citywide Wi-Fi project, it could be much more successful because it is concentrated in a smaller, denser area where people hang out. According to 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 centre that would be extended underground across the entire CTA subway system.”
Chicago backs away from muni Wi-Fi (August 2007)