29 Sep Wait `till next year OK for baseball, not broadband
There is no repeat for the White Sox this year and as for the Cubs… well, let’s just say the perennial “Wait until next year.” What we cannot “wait until next year” for is some real action on developing a real plan for connectivity for all of Chicago.
There should be as much buzz, if not more, around the development of a wireless infrastructure as there is on teams that didn’t even make the playoffs, but maybe the media is so forlorn about backing mediocrity that they really don’t care about something that would radically change the whole city. After all, they probably have been traditionally trained with the three Rs – rote, repetition, and routine.
Chicago is way behind. Having a cohesive strategy on communications is important and the latest RFP for wireless connectivity does not cover everything it should.
I will not go into details about the RFP because I do not think that asking for free help on something as critical as this sends the right message as to how serious the city is. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” just does not seem to be sinking in when it comes to designing network infrastructure.
Should we have gotten volunteers to design and build the new White Sox Park? Why not? It’s not part of the critical infrastructure. It’s just for a sports team.
Should we have asked people to go out and build some vegetable gardens at Millennium Park? That would have given the city a nice folksy image right downtown. No need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. A nice patchwork of carrots and corn would look good right around the Chrome Bean sculpture. “Pick Your Own” in a neon sign would also give it an interactive feel without breaking the budget, and it would reflect nicely on the Bean.
Would you go out and ask someone to operate on you for free? You would save some big money but, literally, I don’t think you could live with the results.
From another perspective, an IBM exec that has to travel in and out of Chicago thinks that having to pay for wireless connections at O’Hare is ridiculous. He says other airports offer it free as an airport courtesy. Why does Chicago charge for it? I could not answer him, but I do agree that from an image standpoint, that does not make Chicago look like a real leader. If lesser airports are offering it for free, why are we charging something? That’s tacky. Again, that policy sounds like someone who thought up pay toilets as a revenue generator. (My cynicism gone too far? At one time, we had them.)
Priorities and global images just don’t seem to be in the right place when it comes to our network infrastructure as Chicago slides, little by little, into a technological abyss with no one paying attention. Or are people really paying attention, but they don’t have the ability to attract the mainstream media to this endeavor?
The following passage is from a concerned reader named Scott about an earlier article I wrote after testifying at the “Affordable Internet Access for All Chicagoans” hearing, an article that was featured here and in Wisconsin:
Believe it or not, I read your recent OpEd about Chicago’s slipping broadband infrastructure on the Wisconsin Technology Network website. I wanted to drop you a note to thank you for voicing what a LOT of business and NFP (Not-for-Profit) leaders have been quietly saying about Chicago for a long time.
As someone who consults with the full spectrum of companies and NFPs here, I have heard often that the property management companies here just don’t get it with regard to connectivity, preferring to lay the responsibility upon carriers. The problem, as you indicated, is that other cities offer fully integrated packages to incent companies to move in and stay in.
The most striking example, I think, is Google’s brand spanking new facility in NYC; which is built in the carrier hotel for all the traffic on the entire East Coast.
Has Chicago ever made a similar kind of coup? Doubtful, because Chicago has relied for too long on its past status as a strategic data hub from the Cold War days, which is no longer the case. You are dead on in saying that the City of Chicago needs to get its act together to raise the city back to top-tier status, by fully committing to today’s infrastructure, not yesterday’s.
Obviously, the carrier hotel down at the old Donnelly site hasn’t been state-of-the-art for at least a decade now. When it comes to new development or office space redevelopment, have you tried to get a carrier to do a site survey here? It is a headache like I’ve never seen anywhere else! For some reason, it is WAY easier to get a major data pipe in Charlotte or Nashville, even Minneapolis, than it is here! Thanks for writing the truth. I hope the message disseminates well enough for the council, mayor, county, and gubernatorial aspirants to make “upgrading” as important as CTA funding!
I also spoke with Scott on the phone and he is concerned because his business is in Chicago. He, along with others I have talked to, just don’t even pay attention anymore to the mainstream local media because they, in his words. “just don’t get it.” He said he could move to either coast and gain more momentum as most of his contemporaries have. And he isn’t a native Chicagoan. He grew up in Iowa and also spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C.
He does not see Chicago jumping ahead and is very concerned about that. Maybe we should just get him a Cubs hat and tell him to root for them to take his mind off of real issues. That seems to be where many of the Chicago businesses are. Are their leaders influenced by what’s covered by the mainstream media?
Where is the mainstream press?
This is a critical issue for the long-term viability of Chicago. There should be representatives from real estate companies, major employers, state government agencies, the mainstream media and everyone else that is dependent on the vibrancy of the City showing up at these hearings.
The mainstream press should be keeping as close tabs on this endeavor as they do on the gossip on local politicians. Stories about negative ads and other personal acquaintances seem to be the focus of the media, yet people are more interested in the issues that are going to get them a job.
The media would do much better if they started to understand that economic development equals broadband connectivity and broadband connectivity equals jobs. The next part of that formula that the media doesn’t get is that jobs equals votes. So my advice to them is that if you want a real story, write one about this.
People are interested in jobs in Illinois because if they don’t see any, they will be going to Charlotte, Houston, Las Vegas, and other growing cities.
I’m really rooting for Chicago to move forward, but no one seems to be listening.
Well, other civic leaders are. They are watching Chicago as well as this column and want to make sure they keep ahead on options for network infrastructure. A group invited me to be the keynote speaker in Milwaukee (http://www.cfnbainnercitywireless.biz/id23.html) next month about the critical issues surrounding the addition of a wireless network infrastructure, and what it does to the local economic development process. They are going through the same issues; the difference is that they do not want to stumble and want as much insight as possible. Texas is next.
Carlini-ism: As the infrastructure gets weaker, people realize it and move on.
Copyright 2006 – James Carlini
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Carlini will be the keynote speaker at the Justice – Media – Wireless (Wi-Fi) & You, Oct. 21-23, 2006, in Milwaukee. Details can be found here (http://www.cfnbainnercitywireless.biz/id23.html )
Check out James Carlini’s blog at www.carliniscomments.com.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.