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Chicago Plans To Join Wi-Fi Party With Citywide Network

The Windy City is preparing to become the Wi-Fi City: Chicago plans to solicit bids from technology companies this spring to create a giant 228-square-mile hot-spot that would cover the entire city.

The Windy City is preparing to become the Wi-Fi City: Chicago plans to solicit bids from technology companies this spring to create a giant 228-square mile hotspot that would cover the entire city.

The proposal, announced by city CIO Chris O'Brien, comes as other large U.S. cities labor to find a workable model to bring no-cost or low-cost wireless broadband to their citizens. Philadelphia is deploying citywide Wi-Fi with Earthlink building the infrastructure and San Francisco is considering an offer from Google to deploy the service.

In Boston, Google, Earthlink, and Hewlett-Packard are showing signs of interest in bringing a WiFi network to the city.

The Chicago proposal to inaugurate citywide Wi-Fi has a major problem that could also complicate other wide-area wireless rollouts: it is called Wi-Fi. There has been a major proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots in the city and there are fears that they could pose interference problems for a citywide wireless service.

Wireless market research firm JiWire reported last month that Chicago has 501 Wi-Fi hotspots, placing it third behind San Francisco (801) and New York (643).

Chicago has been discussing the Wi-Fi issue for a few years, but last week O'Brien said the city expects to seek bids on Wi-Fi for the city and he added that a major deployment could be in place in 2007, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

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