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Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today the release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop a low-priced gigabit speed broadband network in seven Innovation Zones across the city as the next step in the City of Chicago’s Broadband Challenge. This ultra-high-speed network will provide gigabit-speed service at a rate substantially below current market prices to businesses, universities, and other organizations located in these core commercial and industrial areas and will foster innovation, drive job creation, and stimulate economic growth. Four companies were selected through a previous Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process and are eligible to respond to the RFP and include Lightower, Sunesys, Tilson, and Zayo.
“Since day one, my administration has remained committed to making the investments needed to ensure that Chicago is prepared to meet the demands of a 21st century economy,” said Mayor Emanuel. “The establishment of a high speed, low-cost broadband network will not only accelerate job growth, but dramatically improve educational opportunities, health care services, and general quality of life throughout the city and ensure Chicago remains a global leader in technology and innovation.”
The seven Innovation Zones include the Central Business District Zones (Loop, West Loop, and River North) and Neighborhood Zones (University of Chicago and Medical Center, IIT/Bronzeville, Pullman Industrial Corridor, and Ravenswood Industrial Corridor). Respondents are required to bid on at least one Central Business District Zone and may then bid on any combination of the remaining zones, with additional weight given to the respondent bidding on the most zones. As part of their proposal, respondents must also develop a Community Plan to provide an additional free or discounted broadband service to a community or communities. Examples of a Community Plan solution might include free wireless service in a park or public space; reduced pricing for residential broadband service in an underserved community; or some other type of free or discounted service.
In order to support development of the low-priced network and spur market competition, the City is providing no- or low-cost access to a variety of physical assets, infrastructure access, and other resources. These assets include CTA and OEMC fiber, City and sister agency building rooftops, sewers and freight tunnels, light and traffic poles, and other types of support. Respondents are also invited to bid on the provision of City of Chicago broadband service, which may range anywhere from more than $500,000 to $2.3 million annually.
High-speed broadband is a critical component of urban infrastructure, however, gigabit-speed service, where available in the city, can cost up to $5,000 a month - a serious impediment for a small business or startup. Through this initiative, the City expects the cost of commercial ultra-high-speed service to decrease from 50-80 percent. In addition, service providers often pass the cost of last-mile building connections on to the building or small business owner and can cost up to $300,000, which is difficult or impossible for a small business owner to pay. These types of lump sum costs will not be permitted under an agreement with the City.
Examples of small, high-technology companies that require gigabit speed broadband to handle large amounts of information and data transfer include digital media businesses, software application development startups, and data analytics companies. These types of businesses require exceptionally high broadband speeds and bandwidth capacity in order to download and upload large numbers of images and film footage, move complex code across the internet as they develop software products; and manipulate large amounts of data to answer challenging problems .
The Broadband Challenge was launched by Mayor Emanuel in September 2012 and seeks to achieve 3 goals: create a low-priced gigabit-speed network to serve businesses, universities, and other organizations in key commercial and industrial corridors; establish free wireless service in parks and public spaces citywide; and increase accessibility and affordability of internet service in underserved residential areas. For more information on the Broadband Challenge, please visit www.cityofchicago.org/broadband.