Verizon to replace copper with fibre optic Internet in Boston

Carrier will seek cable TV franchise and conduct a smart city traffic trial

Verizon and the city of Boston today announced a US$300 million fibre optic cable replacement of copper cable throughout the city over the next six years.

The project will increase Internet speeds and help Boston, which has 650,000 residents, expand broadband as part of its priority to ensure every resident has Internet access, Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement on Tuesday. Business, schools, hospitals and libraries will also be connected.

Smart city elements will be added as well, including a trial project to reduce traffic congestion along Massachusetts Avenue. The city and Verizon will partner to experiment with sensors and advanced traffic signal technology to increase safety, measure bike traffic and improve public transit vehicle flow.

Future smart city apps could include sensors for environmental conditions, energy efficiency and city lighting management.

Verizon will also attach wireless equipment to city street lights and utility poles to boost wireless service for residents.

Because of the extremely high bandwidth capability of fibre optic cable, Verizon said the cable can serve as a foundation for future technology, such as 5G wireless. Verizon also operates an innovation center in Waltham, Mass., which will host the company's development and testing of 5G wireless.

The company plans to monitor the Boston fibre rollout to help it decide whether to take similar fibre networks to other markets.

Verizon also said it will begin a franchise licensing application to provide cable TV to the city through its Fios TV service, relying on the same cable used for Internet access. Similar franchises in other cities have resulted in financial support for public access, including cable TV connections to schools, Verizon said.

Similar to how Google Fiber has worked in several cities, Verizon said it will allow residents and businesses to register online to request fibre optic connections, which will help the carrier prioritize where to build. The first communities will be Dorchester, West Roxbury and Dudley Square.

The next group will be Hyde Park, Mattapan and other areas of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. In all, there will be four groups of communities in the phased construction project, and the city has agreed to expedite the permitting process, according to an online description of the project.

Verizon didn't specify Internet speeds or costs for Boston, but presumably there will be tiers of service much as Google, AT&T, Comcast and others have provided in other cities. Google Fiber in the Kansas City area goes for US$130 a month for speeds of up to 1Gbps plus TV, US$70 a month for fibre of up to 1Gbps alone and US$50 a month for fibre of up to 100 Mbps.

Verizon Fios offered in other cities is available for US$69.99 per month for 100Mbps of Internet, with TV and phone, but that service might not be comparable to how Boston's new fibre will operate.

Verizon also presented a US$100,000 Digital Equity contribution to the city to be used to support access for low-income residents. The money will support a mobile hotspot lending program at the Boston Public Library to be used to support families; Verizon said other details will be provided later.

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