Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goal to develop Chicago into a world leader in broadband connectivity is receiving a boost from AT&T Inc., which announced Thursday that it has invested more than $190 million in its Chicago wired and wireless networks in the first half of 2012.
"Today great cities of the world recognize there is a modern component of vital infrastructure. We all understand that roads, water and bridges are critical to allow cities to function,” said Paul La Schiazza, president of AT&T Chicago. “But in today’s innovation and internet economy, broadband infrastructure is now essential. Absolutely essential.”
Since 2009 AT&T has invested $1.2 billion in its Chicago broadband services and opened a flagship store on the Magnificent Mile. The mayor recognized AT&T’s commitment to the city.
“It makes our homes, our city’s neighborhood better to live in. It makes our businesses and downtown and small business better,” said Emanuel.
AT&T’s announcement comes on the shoulders of the mayor introducing a plan called the Chicago Broadband Challenge in late September. The three goals of the plan included building world-class broadband infrastructure for the city, extending broadband into underserved areas and providing free Wi-Fi in public spaces.
The first steps of the plan have started and already free Wi-Fi is available in Millennium Park. The mayor is requesting ideas from the public through an online forum, and has formally began the process of asking private companies, universities and other organizations for help developing innovative ideas.
“It really does conceptualize the areas of Chicago that will make the city the most successful,” said Robert Fishman, professor at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan.
The plan is still in the developmental stages but the mayor hopes progress will be made on it quickly.
“I’m going to make sure that Chicago is the digital alley of the Midwest,” the mayor said.