Boston Developing Plan For Citywide Wi-Fi


The City of Boston, long conspicuous by the absence of any municipal-wide effort to supply Wi-Fi access, is moving to support a citywide rollout of the wireless technology that is expected to be outlined in a report next week from a non-profit organization.

Mayor Tomas M. Menino announced the creation of a task force Wednesday that he said would "make Boston a world leader in wireless Internet access." A haphazard conglomeration of Wi-Fi hotspots, some located in city libraries, has sprung up in recent months, but the city has resisted establishing a comprehensive Wi-Fi plan, even as surrounding cities and towns have been moving to implement Wi-Fi.

The non-profit Boston Foundation is scheduled to unveil its plan for developing Wi-Fi across the city next week. Menino named three business leaders to co-chair a committee to study the issue: James I. Cash Jr., a Microsoft director and former Harvard Business School professor; venture capitalist Rick Burnes, who is a director of the Boston Foundation; and Joyce Plotkin, president of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council.

The mayor said the task force will deliver its Wi-Fi report including recommendations this summer.

The 22-member Boston Wireless Task Force includes representatives from business, the community, and academia.

The task force membership did not include City Councilor John M. Tobin Jr., who had previously been the driving political force behind Wi-Fi for the city.

Many business and academic leaders have been miffed by Boston's previous lack of enthusiasm for Wi-Fi and compared it negatively to the efforts in Philadelphia and San Francisco, which have moved aggressively to deploy the wireless technology.

Municipality-supported Wi-Fi has been deployed in a number of communities across the country with varying degrees of success and failure. Different infrastructures are being utilized like Wi-Fi with VoIP in Rio Rancho, N. M., broadband over powerline in Manassas, Va., and mesh Wi-Fi wireless in Tempe, Ariz.

The danger of jumping too quickly into Wi-Fi has been underlined by the recent collapse of infrastructure provider Vivato.