Chicago advances Wi-Fi access

By Editorial Board

Last fall, Sprint and Clearwire launched the first city-wide 4G wireless Internet network in Chicago. It is available by subscription for approximately the same price as a typical home plan. Called WiMAX, the network blankets the entire city, allowing subscribers to access the Internet from anywhere within the network’s boundary.

Being able to access the Internet on the go from a wireless-enabled laptop is not only convenient, but is becoming increasingly essential for many people. By being one of the first and largest metropolitan cities to have this option available, Chicago is clearly stepping up and becoming a leader in technology. Communication is moving faster than ever before, and it is important for our city to keep up with the advancement.

However, there is one major concern for users of the WiMAX network. Privacy and security from other subscribers, potential hackers and government officials should not be taken for granted. Because the network covers the entire city, there is a risk of information leaking into unwanted channels. Users of the network should make sure they have firewall protection to prevent identity theft and other such problems.

The new 4G, or fourth generation, network does not operate on the same system as BlackBerries and iPhones. This means it is faster and does not get weighed down by 3G activity in the area. Clearwire and Sprint should make sure the network keeps this speed constant and has enough carrying capacity to handle a large amount of online traffic as their subscription

base grows.

Although the new Wi-Fi network is more convenient for many Chicagoans, it does not provide more people with access. Those stuck in the “digital divide” of lower-income neighborhoods won’t see their options increase because the service costs just as much as a home subscription.

The city should continue to take steps forward in providing residents with convenient wireless access and should also look for ways to provide lower-income families with easy access to the Internet, bridging the gap of online access in the digital era.