Chicago examines fiber-optic expansion
- By Eric Kulisch
- Jan 08, 2001
Chicago's CivicNet request for information
Hundreds of companies, educational institutions, hospitals and community
organizations are poring over a partnership offer from the city of Chicago
to expand a fiber-optic cable network beyond the city center.
Interested participants have until Jan. 19 to respond to a request for
information to determine the economic viability of bringing high-speed communications
to every neighborhood.
The Chicago CivicNet project envisions bringing together institutional
users to create a market large enough to draw a consortium that would build,
manage and operate the network.
With some 1,600 government offices and school locations still needing
faster broadband access, officials say the city is the anchor tenant that
can attract groups to commit to the metropolitan area network.
This kind of public/private partnership enables network users to match
services to their requirements, said Joe Mambretti, director of the International
Center for Advanced Internet Research at Northwestern University. "I think
increasingly this is going to be the model for these kind of relationships,"
said Mambretti, who also is a technology adviser to Chicago Mayor Richard
The city will give communications service providers incentive to join
the CivicNet effort by bundling the almost $30 million spent annually on
leased lines for voice and data communications and guaranteeing that business
for up to 10 years.
"Right now telecommunications companies don't see a payback to bring
fiber to the neighborhoods, so they haven't done it," said Doug Power, CivicNet
project manager and assistant commissioner of the Department of General
The joint venture also offers cable providers the possibility of saving
millions of dollars in installation costs. The city, for example, can allow
conduit to be laid when streets are repaired or new water mains are installed,
according to city officials. Partner firms also will have access to city
rights of way along streets, power lines, rapid transit lines and, perhaps
most promising of all, storm sewer lines and tunnels.