60 Chicago Parks to Offer Free Public Internet Access, Officials Say Wi-Fi is ‘Truly a Human Right’

(Mary Taylor / Pexels)(Mary Taylor / Pexels)

Calling access to Wi-Fi “truly a human right,” Rosa Escareño, Chicago Park District general superintendent and CEO, announced Thursday an $8 million investment in broadband infrastructure that will provide free, public internet service at 60 of the city’s parks on the South and West sides.

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Connectivity will extend up to 200 yards beyond a park’s fieldhouse, Escareño added, making service accessible at playgrounds and other areas, benefiting not only parkgoers but also the community surrounding the park.

The first phase of installation is underway, with broadband improvements made at 27 of the selected park fieldhouses. A second phase, set to begin this fall, will focus on outdoor areas, and a final phase, slated to start in winter 2025, will update existing Wi-Fi connectivity at 100 additional parks.

The announcement comes as part of a broader digital equity plan prioritizing public Wi-Fi access in the least connected areas of the city, officials said.

“There is simply no way to fully participate in the 21st century global city and economy without the internet,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said. “How can we expect the people of Chicago to succeed without these very basic tools? Public Wi-Fi in 60 parks in communities that need this access most is a great step forward.”

Johnson also announced that the Chicago Connected program is being extended for another year, through June 2025.

Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to support Chicago Public Schools’ shift to e-learning, Chicago Connected provides internet access to 40,000 enrolled CPS families. Funding was set to expire at the end of this school year, but the city is spending $4 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars to continue the service.

Current enrollees will retain their service, and new users, including newly arrived migrants, will be able to sign up through their schools, according to Pedro Martinez, CPS CEO.

The parks in the free Wi-Fi program:

— Abbott Park, 31 E. 95th St.

— Ada, 11250 S. Ada St.

— Altgeld, 515 S. Washtenaw Ave.

— Amundsen, 6200 W. Bloomingdale Ave.

— Archer, 4901 S. Kilbourn Ave.

— Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St.

— Avalon, 1215 E. 83rd St.

— Bessemer Park, 8930 S. Muskegon Ave.

— Brainerd Park, 1246 W. 92nd St.

— Carver, 939 E. 132nd St.

— John Clark, 4615 W. Jackson Blvd.

— Columbus, 500 S. Central Ave.

— Cooper Park, 11712 S. Ada St.

— Cornell Square Park, 1809 W. 50th St.

— Davis Square Park, 4430 S. Marshfield Ave.

— Douglass Park, 1401 S. Sacramento Drive

— Samuel Ellis Park, 3520 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

— Euclid Park, 9800 S. Parnell Ave.

— Fernwood Park, 10436 S. Wallace St.

— Frank Foster Park, 1440 W. 84th St.

— Franklin Park, 4320 W. 15th St.

— Fuller Park, 331 W. 45th St.

— Galewood, 5729 W. Bloomingdale Ave.

— Garfield, 100 N. Central Park Drive

— Gately, 10201 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

— Grand Crossing, 7655 S. Ingleside Ave.

— Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St.

— Harriet Harris Park, 6200 S. Drexel Ave.

— Homan Square Park, 3559 W. Arthington St.

— Humboldt Park, 1440 N. Humboldt Boulevard

— Jackson Park, 6401 S. Stony Island Ave.

— Kennicott, 4434 S. Lake Park Ave.

— Martin Luther King, 7600 S. Racine Ave.

— Lafollette, 1333 N. Laramie Ave.

— Lindblom Park, 6054 S. Damen Ave.

— Mandrake Park, 3858 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

— Marquette, 6743 S. Kedzie Ave.

— McKinley, 2210 W. Pershing Road

— Meyering, 7140 S. Martin Luther King Drive

— Moore, 5085 W. Adams St.

— Moran Park, 5727 S. Racine Ave.

— Nash Community Center, 1833 E. 71st St.

— Oakdale Park, 965 W. 95th St.

— Ogden Park, 6500 S. Racine Ave.

— Palmer Park, 201 E. 111th St.

— Rainbow Beach, 3111 E. 77th St.

— Robichaux Park, 9247 S. Eggleston Ave.

— Jackie Robinson Park, 10540 S. Morgan St.

— Russell Square Park, 3045 E. 83rd St.

— Sherman Park, 1301 W. 52nd St.

— Sherwood Park, 5701 S. Shields Ave.

— Simons, 1640 N. Drake Ave.

— South Shore Park, 7059 S. South Shore Drive

— Taylor Park, 39 W. 47th St.

— Tuley, 501 E. 90th Place

— Washington, 5531 S. King Drive

— West Chatham, 8223 S. Princeton Ave.

— West Pullman Park, 401 W. 123rd St.

— Edward White Park, 1120 W. 122nd St.

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]

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