Chicago Scraps Plans for Municipal Wi-Fi Network

An ambitious plan to blanket Chicago with wireless broadband Internet will be shelved because of its cost and projected limited usage, city officials said Tuesday. "We realized - after much consideration - that we needed to reevaluate our approach to provide universal and affordable access to high speed Internet as part of the city's broader digital inclusion efforts," Chicago's chief information officer, Hardik Bhatt, said in a statement. The plan to cover all of Chicago's 228 square miles with wireless Internet access was announced early last year when Chicago leaders said they hoped to become one of the largest cities to offer all-over access to the Web. Instead, the city said its negotiations with private-sector partners, including EarthLink Inc., have stalled because any citywide Wi-Fi would require massive public financing. The city had hoped to provide only infrastructure for the network.

Tuesday's announcement makes Chicago the latest in a string of municipalities to encounter troubles with their municipal broadband initiatives because of ballooning budgets and dwindling usage that's led to scant revenue generated by the projects. About 175 U.S. cities or regions have citywide or partial systems.

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