Evanston residents may soon have access to free wi-fi service in outdoor locations around downtown.

The City Council tonight is scheduled to vote on a plan under which AT&T would install wireless internet access equipment on city street light and traffic signal poles in the downtown area.

The company has offered to pay for the cost of equipment and system operation.

It initially proposed only a private network limited to AT&T customers, with the company paying rent to the city for access to its poles.

The area highlighted in blue would gain outdoor wireless access under the plan.

But city staff, in a memo to aldermen, said they prefer an alternative in which the company would open free access to the public, including non-AT&T customers, and in return the city would waive rental payments from the company.

“Based on the city’s economic development goals for the downtown, the public option would provide a greater benefit,” the memo says.

AT&T and the city also plan to explore the possibility of providing improved wireless communications at the city’s Clark Street and dog beaches.

Update 10:40 a.m. 1/14/14: Aldermen voted to approve the public access version of wi-fi plan Monday night.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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