Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has issued a request for information (RFI) intended to gather recommendations and ideas for how to provide affordable, quality, and reliable internet service options that meet the needs of communities most burdened by the digital divide. The city’s goal is to improve access to high-quality internet and internet adoption for residents living in historically underinvested communities
In a press release, the mayor’s office said the city government is “particularly interested” in hearing ideas on how to leverage its physical assets – such as light poles and rooftops – in this effort.
“Today marks an important milestone in our commitment to ensuring all Chicagoans have affordable, quality broadband options that work for them,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Through the Chicago Recovery Plan, I committed to expanding upon Chicago Connected and increasing broadband affordability and accessibility in communities. Now, I am thrilled to be collaborating with mission-aligned city departments and sister agencies to elicit innovative digital equity recommendations and bring this vision to life.”
The city said it is seeking responses from internet builders, operators, and investors, as well as non-profits and philanthropic foundations interested in supporting innovative broadband connectivity solutions. The city said it also welcomes joint responses between private sector and non-profit organizations that “identify creative ways for different sectors to solve for the shared goal of ending the digital divide.” Responses must be submitted by Monday, November 7, 2022.
The RFI is intended to build on the city’s existing initiative, Chicago Connected, which is a broadband program that provides no-cost internet to qualifying Chicago Public Schools families for four years.
The RFI also comes on the heels of Mayor Lightfoot establishing the Chicago Digital Equity Council (DEC) in May of this year. According to the mayor’s office, the DEC is “a cross-sector, community-driven effort to understand and overcome the nuanced barriers to digital equity by engaging those most burdened by digital inequities.”