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Boston considering city-wide Wi-Fi to boost broadband internet access

August 4, 2009

The city of Boston is considering founding a nonprofit body to build, own and administer a city-wide Wi-Fi network to help underserved neighborhoods reap the benefits of access to broadband internet.

On the recommendation of a wireless broadband internet panel, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said the nonprofit entity would build a network open to innovators that could deliver some of the lowest-priced broadband service in the country.

"We believe the nonprofit route may be the best way to bring low-cost service to every neighborhood while providing a platform for innovation unlike any in the nation," Menino said.

The Boston proposal would provide wholesale-priced access to broadband, which internet service providers and others could use to deliver service.

Boston's plan calls for initially raising money through donations but the nonprofit would oversee construction and own and operate the network itself.

While broadband internet is currently available to nearly 90 percent of Boston residents, only 40 percent of Boston households subscribe, with 30 percent using dial-up and the remaining 30 percent doing without home internet.

Although other cities are implementing city-wide Wi-Fi plans, most of their models rely on a broadband internet services company to build and operate the network.

Philadelphia had been working with internet service provider EarthLink to build and manage a wireless network, but EarthLink withdrew last year.

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