Chicago Expands Free Internet Access for Disinvested Communities

The city of Chicago, IL continues its roll-out of the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) Chicago Connected program and the Chicago Park District’s Citywide Broadband and Digital Equity Initiative. Free internet access will soon be made available to disinvested communities at parks and schools across the city, serving more than 40,000 students and 60 parks in south and west side neighborhoods.

“In the 21st century, internet access cannot be a luxury only available to a few. Access to high-quality broadband is vital for residents in finding and securing employment, connecting with friends and family, and living fuller lives,” said Brandon Johnson, mayor of Chicago. “Similarly, students in Chicago Public Schools cannot thrive if they do not have access to the Internet at home. This is an issue of equity, fairness and justice, and I am proud that we are expanding free wifi to the communities that need it most.”

The new infrastructure will make free broadband access available to park patrons and extend service beyond the perimeter of a park to the immediate community with antenna signals reaching 100-200 yards. Each park will also be equipped with new digital screens and kiosks that will serve as a portal for information related to parks and other public resources. Park locations were selected based on a number of factors, including the prioritization of parks in South and West side communities with limited broadband access and locations with larger fieldhouses and more robust program offerings.

“It is critical that park families have access to wifi and connectivity not just in the parks but in the nearby community. This is why we are so excited to bring these vital investments to families and communities in need,” said Rosa Escareño, general superintendent and CEO, Chicago Park District. “Parks are more than places to recreate, they are community hubs where residents seek opportunities that improve their quality of life: connecting to friends, applying for a job, and getting homework done. Access to free, public wifi furthers that goal by eliminating challenges like isolation as well as educational and economic barriers the digital divide can often contribute to and helps foster connections that are vital to strengthening communities.”