Boston plans more free Wi-Fi, while WISP netBlazr signs new customers

Martin Walsh, the mayor of Boston, has proposed spending $10.75 million over a five-year period to expand the city's existing fiber-optic cable network to bring broadband Internet service to 100 additional schools and boost backhaul for public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Walsh's plan, included in the capital budget presented to the City Council, would link all Boston public school buildings and expand the number of public Wi-Fi hotspots in the Hub area of the city, according to the Boston Herald.

Boston's Wicked Free Wi-Fi was announced in April, with 170 access points within the public wireless network, most of which link to Boston's existing fiber-optic network. The largest concentration of access points, covering some 1.5 square miles, is located in the Grove Hall area. At the time of the announcement, Walsh's office said an average of 9,800 users a day were accessing the Grove Hall Wi-Fi network.

The city has emphasized that Wicked Free Wi-Fi is designed for public, outdoor use, making it an unsuitable replacement for in-home broadband services from commercial providers.

Boston's fiber-optic network, called BoNet, currently connects 200 city buildings, including police and fire stations and 26 of the city's128 schools. Boston schools have spent
 $3 million on 10,000 Google Chromebooks.

The Boston Herald noted that Walsh's plan could be the precursor to something bigger: a citywide fiber-optic network at which Walsh has hinted.

In other Boston news, wireless Internet service provider netBlazr has been expanding its commercial broadband service, which relies upon 5 GHz frequencies used for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed uses such as garage door openers. The company is adding 30 customers a month and has deployed antennas on about 35 buildings, according to the Boston Globe.

So far, netBlazr, which started signing up customers in 2011, has accrued some 200 business and residential customers around downtown Boston and parts of Cambridge and Allston. Many of those customers pay $40 a month for 15 Mbps data service, though the WISP also offers speeds up to 500 Mbps to businesses.

The fact that there is a vast number of older buildings in Boston, which are still not rewired for modern Internet services, has helped netBlazr establish a foothold.

Interestingly, the WISP announced in March that it was awarded its first patent for a process that allows network nodes to auto-configure, allowing for a "one-click" sign-on process. The patent explains how to auto-configure a network node that a consumer would buy and hang in their window, a technology currently in development.  

"This patented process will be key in netBlazr's efforts to develop several new products and service delivery concepts that we expect will revolutionize neighborhood networking and the delivery of Internet services in urban areas," netBlazr said at the time.

The company added it considers this patent "crucial to creating self-organizing mesh networks in urban areas and providing consumers an alternative delivery method for high-speed Internet."

For more:
- see this Boston Herald article
- see this Boston Globe article

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