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Verizon-Boston fiber optic deal means more than faster Internet service

Matt Hamblen | April 18, 2016
Smart city project and small cell wireless on utility poles are part of 'platform' deal.

To say that Verizon will be spending $300 million to install fiber-optic cable in the city of Boston misses the bigger point.

Over six years, Verizon will replace its copper wire with fiber optic cable for Internet and, potentially, cable TV service to homes and businesses. But there's a lot more to the deal announced with Boston on Tuesday.

Verizon and the city will get a fiber "platform," the two parties said, which is another way of saying that there will be many other uses for the new fiber optic cable.

First, Verizon and the city have agreed that fiber will serve as a backhaul to small cellular devices atop lighting and utility poles to boost 4G LTE wireless capability and coverage where needed. The two parties have entered into an agreement where Verizon will pay $50,000 a year for the city's administration cost of issuing construction permits. In addition, Verizon will pay for the permits to run fiber strands up many of the utility poles in the city.

jascha franklin-hodge boston cio 2016
Jascha Franklin-Hodge is CIO for the city of Boston.

City of Boston CIO Jascha Franklin-Hodge said in an interview that the fiber cable will run from a pole with the wireless equipment to a utility box, where the fiber will connect to the rest of the network.

City permits will be issued to run fiber, which will boost Internet speeds,  to homes and businesses, the downtown area and in many schools and other public buildings. The city has agreed to issue the permits in batches to expedite the construction process, officials said. Expediting city permits for cable and cell towers has been a major concern of telecommunications carriers nationally.

Second, Verizon will use the fiber platform to test its 5G wireless innovations, which could come to life by 2022 with faster wireless speeds running at a higher frequency. Verizon has an innovation center in nearby Waltham, where much of that work is already happening.

Third, Verizon and Boston will work on a pilot smart city project that could provide the most interesting technology of all. The project will focus on improving safety and traffic congestion along busy Massachusetts Avenue, in a segment called the "Vision Zero Priority Corridor."

Vision Zero is an idea stemming from a network of cities that have set a goal of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries resulting from crashes involving motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, Franklin-Hodge said. In Boston's case, the timetable to reach that goal is 2030.

The project with Verizon includes experimenting with sensors and advanced traffic signal control technology to measure bike traffic, improve public traffic flow and decrease congestion.


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