Power likened the CivicNet plans to projects in which local governments build roads, waterworks, sewers and airports to entice companies to move in or to prevent them from going elsewhere. In today's e-business era, he said, big cities like Chicago need to provide access to high-speed networks.
According to Daley, companies locating or expanding in Chicago "are always asking about the type of telecommunications infrastructure that's available."
Power said the network would be phased in over time to carry all city government and institutional data, voice and video communications. Providers partticipating in the initiative could then offer a variety of information services over the same fiber to businesses and residential users, he said.
The CivicNet project "provides a way to aggregate need and supply," said Michael Silverman, a partner at the Chicago office of law firm Duane, Morris & Heckscher LLP. "It's a great use of the city's ability to bring together various constituencies."
Chicago officials hope to sign contracts with vendors by the end of next year, Power said.
He added that it's unlikely that any single vendor could handle the job of building and operating the network, which is expected to be based on Ethernet standards.