Swim, relax -- and Web-surf -- at Chicago beaches

A free Wi-Fi program is part of a larger Windy City effort to expand affordable broadband coverage to underserved metro areas.

By Bruce Kennedy Jul 24, 2013 9:18AM

People watch the sunset on the beach of Lake Michigan in Chicago (© Philippe Renault/Getty Images)Like it or not, it's pretty hard to get away from the Internet. But some people -- and communities -- seem to like it that way.

Chicago, for example, just announced it's offering free high-speed Wi-Fi access at five city beaches. Putting aside the question of just why you'd want to expose your electronics to water, heat and sand, Crain's Chicago Business reports the new service is part of the city's efforts to expand low-cost broadband access in underserved parts of the metro area.

"I am committed to making Chicago one of the most connected cities in the world by expanding access to high speed internet in people's homes, businesses and in public spaces," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a press statement. "In the coming months, we will build off of this initiative and the free wi-fi offered in Millennium Park by extending free wi-fi services to additional parks and public spaces throughout Chicago."

The new, beach-accessible Wi-Fi is pretty cost-efficient, too. The city placed the wireless infrastructure on existing office and residential building near the selected beaches. Crain's says the system was built by Everywhere Wireless, a Chicago-based broadband provider, using about $100,000 worth of gear supplied by Cisco Systems (CSCO). Everywhere contributed its costs. The Chicago Park District is providing the needed power and electrical work.

"We built it over the last 60 days," Collin DeMeritt, Everywhere's head of business development told Crain's. "The concept is to give something back to the community and build up the infrastructure for the city."

For the moment, according to the Chicago Tribune, the beachside Wi-Fi service has about a maximum distance of 1,000 feet from linked beachfront houses and concession stands. The pilot program runs through October. After that, depending on its success, the city and Everywhere Wireless will consider expanding the system to elsewhere in Chicago.

More on moneyNOW

Jul 24, 2013 9:44AM
Are there free bullet proof vests at these beaches?
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