Evanston City Council approves the installation of free public WiFi downtown

    Evanston will soon join the growing number of cities across the country that provide public WiFi to their residents. This comes after the City Council voted Monday night to approve a partnership with AT&T to provide the free wireless Internet service in sections of the downtown area.

    The approved plan will allow AT&T to install their equipment on city infrastructure (such as light poles and street signs) and to use city electricity in exchange for providing the public WiFi. The aldermen chose to install the free WiFi in lieu of charging rent for the infrastructure and electricity, as is done with cell phone towers, because of the great public benefits of such an agreement.

    “It seems like it makes more sense to provide for everybody,” said Ald. Ann Rainey (8th Ward). “Walking down the street, some people are online and some people can’t. That just doesn’t seem fair.”

    Ald. Rainey and Ald. Jane Grover (7th Ward) were the only members who voted to approve the plan, with the other aldermen abstaining.

    According to the city council meeting agenda, the WiFi network will provide service for approximately eleven blocks in the downtown area, stretching down Church St. from Chicago Ave. to Benson Ave. and down Sherman Ave. from Church to Lake St. The agenda also described the potential for the free wireless network to be expanded in the future as it is in line with “the city’s economic development goals for the downtown.”

    In front of a small crowd of about 20 citizens, the city council also heard reports about the effectiveness of the Public Works Department in response to the extreme weather of last week’s Polar Vortex.

    The two storms at the start of 2014 brought a combined 26.5 inches of snow, said the Director of Public Works Suzette Robinson. She said that this represented the second snowiest week on record when compared with Chicago O’Hare statistics, and brought 6.5 inches more snow than the legendary Snowpocalypse of 2011.

    Robinson, and several other aldermen, were quick to compliment the effectiveness of the city’s response to the inclement weather, saying the mostly-successful clearing of the snow-blanketed streets was due to quality communication and partnerships with community groups, including Northwestern University.

    The council also heard a report Monday from the Evanston Fire Chief Greg Klaiber about the Dec. 29th fire on that damaged several businesses, including the restaurant Taco Diablo. Klaiber said that the fire department has determined the fire started in the kitchen of the restaurant Pine Yard, but they are continuing to investigate how exactly the fire began.

    To benefit the employees displaced by the fire, a fundraiser will be held on Saturday, Jan. 18th at the restaurant 27 Live with food provided by Taco Diablo. This info came from Gina Speckman, the executive director of Chicago’s North Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau at the council meeting.

    “You can get your last taste of … Taco Diablo” at the fundraiser, said Speckman. “He will rise again, but for now this may be your last chance.”


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