the launch of Connect Chicago, a loose network of more than 250 places in the city where internet and computer access, digital skills training, and online learning resources are available—for free.
y way of background, Connect Chicago is a part of the Public Computer Centers grant received by the City of Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has also awarded a grant to support this project. Smart Chicago administers many portions of this grant, including the Connect Chicago portion.
Most of the locations in the Connect Chicago system have been serving the community for many, many years. Wi-fi and public computers have been available in the Chicago Public Library for more than a decade. Community technology centers— supported in part with programs like the State of Illinois’ Eliminate the Digital Divide Program (going back to 2001)— have been essential parts of neighborhoods for many years. Home-grown classes on social media and photo sharing have been taught in senior centers since the days of Friendster. This robust, caring, and rich environment is the basis for our work.
“Chicago will be one of the most connected cities in the world,” said Emanuel. “The establishment of a world-class broadband network in Chicago will create thousands of jobs and dramatically improve educational opportunities, economic development, health care services, and general quality of life throughout the city.”
The City of Chicago is releasing a Request for Information (RFI) today, that seeks to engage private companies, universities, and other organizations to accomplish three main goals: building world-class broadband infrastructure for the city; extending broadband service into underserved areas; and providing free Wi-Fi access in public spaces throughout Chicago.