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Public WiFi In Chicago Area

By Matt Wood in Miscellaneous on Nov 2, 2005 7:41PM

2005_11_wifi.gifAurora mayor Tom Weisner will introduce plans for a citywide WiFi network as part of the 2006 operating budget, potentially making Aurora the first city in Illinois to provide free wireless internet access to its citizens. The budget proposal will ask the city council for $5 million to build the network infrastructure. An official from the mayor's office said that once the network is up and running, they may charge a fee for higher-speed access and provide basic access for free.

Other cities, including Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Austin have started similar projects through public funding, private donations from vendors, and community activism. The city of Chicago has studied potential options for a citywide network, but has not announced any official plans. The notion behind public WiFi is that as the internet becomes an indispensable part of life, it should be provided as a public service like schools and libraries. And we're not talking about open hotspots at coffee shops or souped-up routers run by your l33t haxx0r friends, we mean government subsidized, always-on, free wireless internet everywhere in the city.

Of course, this kind of socialist thinking makes existing internet service providers like Comcast, SBC, and Time Warner shit their collective pants. These companies have lined up a slew of legal challenges to public WiFi, citing unfair competition from the government, and have even prodded their minions in Congress to introduce bills that would ban municipal networks. Chicagoist can hardly feel sorry for them, because had they been providing satisfactory, inexpensive service to all areas in the first place, local governments wouldn't be taking these steps. So which is it SBC and Comcast? The government is taking your lunch money, or are you afraid someone will do your job better?