Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

City Council voted Jan. 13, to accept free wireless internet service in certain downtown locations rather than charge AT&T for rent and electricity costs. The decision came after AT&T requested the use of City infrastructure for wireless antenna placement.

AT&T proposed two options. One contemplated access for AT&T customers only, along with City employees. AT&T would pay rent and power costs. Under the second option, labeled “free for all” in the AT&T memo, the company would pay no rent and the City would cover the cost of electricity, but anyone within range would be able to access the wireless network at no cost.

The Administration and Public Works Committee quickly decided to pursue the “free for all” option. Marty Lyons, the City’s CFO, said the rent received would come to about $20,000 under the AT&T customers-only scenario.

Mr. Lyons explained that AT&T wanted to provide better service and coverage in Evanston, and rather than seeking out private locations for antennae, the company approached the City with the wireless proposal. He said the free wireless option fit the City’s strategy of “attracting businesses to downtown.”

The City will “work with AT&T regarding the final design of the project, and all costs associated with the installation and maintenance of the WiFi network would be the responsibility of AT&T,” according to the staff memo. AT&T will also explore providing wireless access to the Clark Street beach and Dog Beach, and possibly Dawes Park.

There was no word as to when free wireless will be available, but service “will not be scaled to accommodate heavy, frequent use that includes applications. This network is not recommended for critical, time-sensitive uses,” added AT&T.