SOUTH SHORE — Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Internet giant Google has signed a three-year agreement to sponsor free Wi-Fi at the South Shore Cultural Center and Garfield Park by the end of the year.
“I will continue to work to ensure the entire city of Chicago is one of the most connected cities in the world,” the mayor said. “By increasing the access to high speed Internet in Chicago homes, businesses and public places, we are fortifying the city’s force in the global economy.”
Park District General Supt. Michael Kelly said he expects more visitors at these parks as a result of free Internet.
The collaboration between the city and Google "is core to our mission, to make the world's information universally accessible by enabling more people to get online," said Jim Lecinski, vice president of U.S. Sales and Service in Google's Chicago office.
Lecinski added, "Google is excited to partner with Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District to bring new, free connectivity for Chicago residents."
According to the mayor's office, the agreement also calls for Google to fund construction of the network and to finance monthly maintenance costs for up to three years. Free Wi-Fi has been available at Millennium Park since 2012.
Ald. Natashia Holmes (7th), whose ward includes the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive, said free Internet service could also boost the local economy.
“Free Wi-Fi can only lead to good things such as expanding economic opportunities in the 7th Ward and attracting businesses to the area,” said Holmes. “Considering also that Rainbow Beach is the only South Side beach with free Wi-Fi, having free Wi-Fi now at the South Shore Cultural Center will only enhance the progress already made.”
In July, the city announced it would offer free Wi-Fi service at five Chicago beaches as part of a pilot program. And in September, the City Council approved a plan to acquire more than 8 miles of fiber-optic cable as part of the city's expansion of broadband infrastructure. Another pilot program announced by the city in April aims to provide free to low-cost Internet service to low-income households in designated ZIP codes.
Much like Holmes, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), whose ward includes Garfield Park, 100 N. Central Park Ave., said he is hoping free Internet service generates more economic development in his ward.
“Wireless Internet is a key resource in promoting education year around, and this addition will continue to make Garfield Park a growing neighborhood attraction for our West Side community,” Ervin said. “Families, students, and visitors will appreciate Google bringing this resource to the West Garfield Park community.”