So who would wire up Boston for the mayor's wicked fast Internet?

The Globe reports Mayor Walsh is promising something big in Boston when it comes to high-speed Internet access, although he declined to get specific:

After his comments to the MassTLC audience, Walsh wouldn’t expand on his fiber plans, except to say that he’s working on it.

And, unfortunately, the devil's in the details. Somebody would have to install a lot of fiber around Boston.

The city of Boston doesn't really own a lot of fiber on its own - something discovered by the people who worked on John Tobin's Tom Menino's citywide WiFi plan (remember that?). There's a Fire Department trunk that runs from City Hall to the fire-alarm building in the Fenway. The Transportation Department has a larger network connecting many traffic signals around town, but the WiFI planners found it wasn't really built for major expansion - and it still misses large parts of the city.

Verizon has long declined to extend its FiOS into Boston. Google took a pass on wiring Boston. There's RCN, but that company doesn't serve all of the city.

There is one company with an extensive fiber network across Boston - one the city, in fact, uses to connect most municipal buildings. But you'd hardly expect Comcast to just let the city set up a competing high-speed Internet system on its own network.



Free tagging: 


In most of the city I'd

In most of the city I'd imagine below. It's a huge undertaking.

This is less of a technical/infrastructure issue than a policy issue. Existing fiber can carry an immense amount of traffic. The issue is that it's typically privately owned although I am not absolutely certain that that's the case with e.g. Comcast's fiber in Boston. Sometimes the infrastructure is leased, there are people that know more about that that I.

*Anyway*, the right solution which may at this point be nearly impossible to implement is for one agency to own the physical fiber infrastructure which is then leased to multiple service providers who then compete based on price, speed, quality, etc.

It was too complicated to figure out in the 80s and 90s when fiber was laid, may still be.

Only in parts of the city

I realize we're in the hinterlands here in farthest Roslindale, but there are still significant parts of the city with actual wooden utility poles. The only things underground on my street are the sewers and gas and water mains - NStar, Verizon, Comcast, RCN and the fire-alarm wire are all above ground.


fiber won't reach us

at least at first - this is probably going to be concentrated in "important" areas of the city and places where there is an already concerted effort to entice start-ups to certain central business districts (like Dudley). Roslindale really needs to focus on getting an orange line stop in the square, now that our white elephant of a substation is finally getting attention.



Don't hold your breath on the O-Line stop... Someone a few weeks ago made a valid point why you'll never see the O-line extended beyond forest hills, and I think it more or less has to do with the just doesn't wanting to, and there's only oh so much transit money to go around, and we have more pressing projects like the R/B Connector,.GLX, and others that are apart of regional master plan for the next 25-30 years. I believe O-line beyond Forest Hills is considered a very low priority.

no one has studied the impact of a single stop to Roslindale

How can it be "low priority" when there's been no study? There are 9 bus lines that run through the square, most of which could dead-end there, reducing traffic along Washington Street and especially up at forest hills, the local economic impact would be tremendous, and it would likely be one of the busiest stops in the entire system. The green line extension has 7 stops with a projected weekday use of about 52,000 people (or about 7,500 per station) - and serves areas that are lower density than Roslindale (and one stop even within walking distance of the red line). A single stop in Roslindale would probably have at least 10,000 people just based on the ridership of the bus lines that go through the square. plus there's already a ROW, and space for a station.

It would cut the commute time for people who use these bus lines by at least 10 minutes.

it's "low priority" because no one has bothered to study it - everything has been about replacing the needham line - nothing about just adding a single stop.

You must not..

read the Urban Planning documents . it's in there. No big "study" needs to be done, just a feasibility based on current ridership levels and needs, plus cost per rider to build (and a bunch of other stuff that is just beyond plain ridership and 'nice to have'). Sorry, the state wont even throw money at a feasibility study for such a low priority project.

Read it sometime, every possible expansion/route change/whatever is in that document. If its been thought of, it's in there and has been rated as such.

Don't shoot the messenger, just telling you what the state has already decided upon.

Just keep in mind that YOU may THINK its needed but in the grand scheme of things (in terms of things system wide), it's not very high on the list. You'd be more likely to see BLX to Lynn/Salem or rail coming to Chelsea or areas that are served by a far higher bus rider ratio before a OLX to Roslindale. Sorry. The T has to prioritize its projects, and they just don't feel this is high priority. (again, I'm just repeating what I have read..)

PS - Somerville has the highest density in the state. This is known fact. Sorry Roslindale may be in the top 10, but Somerville tops it every time.

In fact a huge fiber trunk runs up Washington through Rosi

Runs through JP too (It's region-to-region backbone though). But I agree with your broader point - there's massive amounts of fiber all over the city going underutilized, so it seems mostly a $$/political issue, not a technical one. The west end of the city is probably near the bottom of city hall's internet 'honeydo' list

Wrt your 2nd point about Rosi and the orange line, the idea of pushing the Orange line into Rosi village has been discussed on Uhub previously and some forum members who know a lot about rail seem to think there would be extreme logistical problems (iirc, primarily the rail bed parralleling South st is crazy narrow). Perhaps more likely (but not very) - if the T were ever to extend the Orange line it would be more reasonable to put a stop at Metropolitan/HPA, where there's already a wide track bed and a cleared platform area. That location would also serve both Rosi and Hyde Park.

Not holding my breath.

Who owns that trunk?

Dark fiber's an interesting thing. I haven't kept up with it, but I know that during the first big tech explosion, back when we still had RBOCs, companies installed far more fiber than they actually needed at the time (since the real expense was digging the trench in the first place).


They did that because at the time they thought Fibre would be the wave of the future (and it is kinda sorta now). They just thought that they might as well do so now while the ground is open, whether or not it would be used or not.

I have friends in Simi Valley in California that had Fibre dropped to their house by Pacific Bell (Now SBC/AT&T) in the early 1990s. Why? because PacBell thought this was the wave of the future and while the ground was opened up (for these new sub divisions that were popping up), and spent the $ having it installed and sit there (and rot)

ROW is wider than that

It is wide enough for three tracks. The double track section for commuter rail would have to drop to one, then become two after Rozzi Square. Without trains making the stop, the schedule adjustment could work with the revised location for the split. An OLX to Rozzi Square would be very low cost measured against ridership, and would require no eminent domain takings. It would reduce bus exhaust and congestion on Washington St. The biggest strike against it is not enough advocacy. It took a long and concerted effort by Somerville. The same could work for Roslindale.


No Stop For You

The study to extend the Orange Line to Roslindale and well into Needham following the existing Commuter rail line was conducted back in the 80s when the Southwest Corridor project depressed the Orange Line and Commuter rail into the trench through Roxbury and JP that you now see.

Two possibilities were proposed at the time to have the Orange Line run to Needham or all the way through Hyde park to the Rt 128 station.

Neither plan were found viable for a host of reasons but primarily because the towns that would be impacted outside of Boston said 'no.' Basically they pulled a NIMBY.

As a result of that, the Orange line ends where it always did, and commuter rail was redeveloped and expanded along the traditional routes you see today.

Current Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) safety standards FORBID the sharing of tracks between "heavy rail" (commuter rail) and "light" or "lighter rail" (subway cars or streetcars) due to major differences in speeds and crash standards. Since the Needham branch is defined as heavy rail, you cannot also send the Orange line there. They must be "grade separated." This is why in JP you see one set of tracks for the commuter rail and one set of tracks for the Orange Line with a fence between them. They are also at different heights (grades).

Any plan to extend the Orange Line into Roslindale would require an abandonment of the Needham commuter rail for the tracks and right of way to be re-purposed. So any plan that would be transit effective for all parties impacted would need to see an extension that went all the way to Needham. Unfortunately, that would now require some land acquisitions in Needham due to areas where single track operation has been embraced. The MBTA would need to widen the right-of-way for 2 tracks in several places. Of course there would be need to fence it as well and there would be a need to consider overhead wires or 3rd rail.

Since the current rolling stock is configured for 3rd rail, that would be necessary. Converting the current fleet or purchasing new ones would be necessary for then to operate on an overhead wire like the Blue line. Of course that cannot be done due to a tunnel height restriction where the Orange Line passes under the Blue Line at State Street to allow the pantograph mechanism (the thing that connects to the wires overhead) to pass through. There are similar height restrictions in a couple of other places as well in the central subway tube.

Subway trains rains run on DC power so DC converter and booster stations to feed the 3rd rail would also be necessary. That's why the MBTA power station was built in Roslindale Sq - to power streetcars that went through to Dedham and West Roxbury. Same thing. You'd need about 3-4 of them between Forest Hills and Needham easily. More land and permits.

If you just wanted to add the Orange Line as far as Roslindale Sq you'd need to allow for 3 tracks from there to, and through Roslindale. Two for the Orange line and one for commuter rail - fenced and separated. Since the bridge at Roberts Street is narrow (could be rebuilt for 2 tracks as it used to be) and the commuter rail would continue to Needham from there, any Orange Line station would likely be off the square and more behind Taft Hill Terrace. They might even have to cut into the hill and put in a retaining wall for that.

So, right there, we have a lot of legal and logistic reasons why that just won't happen.

Of course the newbies to Roslindale or who were not born yet would not know any of this. Ditto anyone who does not grasp how rail operations work, and what the process is. It's a lot harder than it looks on the surface. It's not like driving a car, and it is never a matter of just dropping some tracks like a model train set.

hybrid wiring

I agree because I have a weird situation here in DOT/Fields Corner. I had Verizon FiOS internet installed six years ago in the mistaken belief FiOS TV would soon follow--they said fine no problem, and I watched the installers run overhead lines down three side blocks to reach Dorchester Ave, where the nearest Fiber cable hookup was--took 'em almost six hours, along with frequent trips back to "the warehouse."

Now I have a giant fiberoptic junction box in my basement, a screaming fast FiOS internet connection, and still no FiOS TV.

So I think the infrastructure is partially there in bits and pieces, but the last few feet to your house will have to be on poles to start.

Fiber optics below ground

This past summer the gas company was digging up Geneva Ave. There are still trolley tracks beneath the surface. They had to cut through the railroad ties with chain saws and go around the rails. I suspect this would pretty much the same thing around Boston. Who would have thought this would be an issue many years later.

Yeah, there are trolley tracks everywhere

A couple years ago, Cummins Highway in Roslindale Square was repaved and for awhile during the work you could see the old trolley tracks that were still there. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there some reason to leave them in beyond cheapness - like they provide support for the pavement?

Boylston Street....

...around the Prudential Center was all torn up in 1970/1971, revealing the trolley tracks beneath. I recall one fine Spring evening seeing the incongruous sight of a stream of men & women in evening dress gingerly navigating the rails as they crossed the street to enter the War Memorial Auditorium for a performance of the Metropolitan Opera on tour. Must've been hell for the women in high heels...

Trolley tracks

When they decided that the old A-line tracks on Washington St. in Brighton were never going to be used anymore (late 90's or early 00's), they did it right. They dug up the street and removed the old tracks, and while they were at it they let RCN and whoever Comcast's predecessor was at the time (AT&T I think) lay fiber underneath.

But apart from that, quite a lot of the communication wires in Brighton are above ground on utility poles.

Rails were left due to laws

The streetcar tracks were left behind due to legislation that allowed a transit company to replace streetcars with buses when necessary or when they deemed it appropriate to cease rail operations and replace them with buses.

It was eventually allowed (bus replacement) provided the tracks were left in place to allow a reinstatement of rail at some point. Eventually the tracks were paved over and left in place. The laws were not changed for decades afterward. As such any street that was at one time a streetcar line will still have the tracks in many locations. Pretty much most major streets would be impacted.

This is an over-simplification but that is the gist of it.

Is Fiber the only way to go?

I wonder if fiber is really the way to go. There is 4G coverage from CLEAR and there are many point to point services via rooftop microwave systems like Towerstream. The idea of laying cable across the city seems a bit antiquated a concept--similar to how there was a brief period in the late 90s when people ran CAT5 all over their homes, only to realize a few years later that nobody would ever need it once we had high speed wireless routers. I recognize you can't base a strategy on hooking up to Clear 4G towers, but neither is it a given that in order to achieve citywide high speed internet access, you would have to run fiber everywhere.

Another point to consider is to really understand how much speed is needed and why. Verizon and Comcast are always trying to upsell consumers to get super speeds like 100Mbps, but no individual needs or can utilize that. If you get 10 Mbps, you can watch HD movies from Netflix. Now granted, if everyone in the apartment building is doing the same...that will get complicated, but the solution requires more that just bigger pipes. The reality...people are going to use this bandwidth to watch streaming TV, so expect Comcast to be fighting it all the way.

Please don't hire a big consulting company to do this though! We don't need another incompetent boondoggle which seems to be how state government works where they hire a deep team of managers and technical incompetents then award the project to a consultant nobody in the industry has ever heard of.

Clear internet coverage

Some time ago I explored my internet options by signing up with Clear. It went well for about two months. Then it slowed to a crawl. Their support people were useless but I did connect with one honest person. She said the tower in my area (Fields Corner) was overloaded. So I got rid of them. I just checked their coverage web page and after entering my street and zip code it stated that while I am in their coverage area, they are unable to sign up new services. So I don't know if wireless would be the answer. Oh, they allege they are now a part of Sprint which I don't know if they is a good thing.

"Verizon and Comcast are

"Verizon and Comcast are always trying to upsell consumers to get super speeds like 100Mbps, but no individual needs or can utilize that."

Just because you can't think of a way someone would use that doesn't mean that no one could possibly use that.

no one can use 100Mbps

What I mean is that claims of 100Mbps are illusory because the actual throughput can't deliver in a practical application. You will be limited by what you are connecting to and the network between you and that device. The difference in loading a website like or even downloading a massive file such as the Windows8.1 is not going to be noticeable once you have more than a 20 Mbps connection.

It just bugs me how they tell customers: you got a new ipad, so now you need 100Mbps. On the low end, however, it is frustrating that they offer "Internet Essentials" for low income people but the bandwidth is throttled to 1M--making it OK for updating facebook, but frustrating for video.

wireless insufficient to deal with projected future use

Nearly every expert in the field agrees on this point. We don't even really need to make guesses about how useful/attractive blanket high bandwidth would be in a developed city like ours - there are many existing examples in east asia and europe. You just can't deliver that to a city-dense population (and likely never will be able to) with wireless.

Btw, those single-home cat5/+ installations are quite useful if you want to push live video to multiple screens, play the best MMPOGs, etc. Generally speaking, you get x10 the bandwidth when using a wired router for about the same cost as a wireless one. And you have fewer concerns wrt interference and security. If you live alone or have simple media demands, you can get by with wireless today. But a larger household is likely to bang up against the wireless bandwidth ceiling on a regular basis. Even here in Rosi, my block is so full of wifi routers that I've had to pick my router channels carefully, and I have parabolic lens on my routers' attennas to concentrate coverage within my property lines.

Installing a wired network in a private home is probably not cost efficient for renters or as the sole reason for a rehab. But if you're doing new construction or opening walls for some other purpose (electrical/plumbing/insulation), then it's dead simple and pretty cheap to give yourself the option of wired/wireless.

I don't get the big deal. I'm

I don't get the big deal. I'm a nerd and use the internet fairly intensively and share my network with other computers and I have never really felt like my 50MBPS from RCN was too slow. I think I could even get 100MBPS from them if I wanted to.

hope he makes an official announcement soon

If you go back in the Boston Globe archives, you can even find Verizon's original announcement about bringing FiOS to Boston, starting with Dorchester, waaay back on Nov 2, 2006. (!) The rumor is dealing with the city was such a logistical red-tape-filled nightmare that they just gave up.

Any competition against Comcast would be welcome, especially with that merger trying to get through. I hope it's something bigger than trying to get Verizon FiOS here again. If it's something really ambitious like Google Fiber, people will go nuts and we'd REALLY have a horserace on our hands.

FIOS halted

If you read through DSL Reports you will find that Verizon has halted the majority of all new FIOS service nationwide.

Verizon is working diligently to get out of the copper wire network business. It has already sold off non-profitable regions to smaller companies. VT, NH, and ME are already gone and managed by Fairpoint Communications.

Verizon's plan is to go wireless with everything, or fibre where feasible.

Their modus operandi is to sell the copper networks to other companies, then come in with wireless expansions and undercut them. They then sell you a black box that connects to your home telephones that essentially make them cell phones on the wireless network. However they won't give you Internet of fax capabilities - only voice. If you want internet that is a separate service. pay more for more.

Ask anyone in NY or NJ that lost infrastructure after Hurricane Sandy. Verizon never rebuilt the telephone network where it was wiped out and is only offering the wireless service and black boxes. Mile sand miles of neighborhoods have no internet from them what so ever.

We are likely not the priority in this plan....

Mayor Walsh was at a meeting of the technology industry. The gist of the article referenced how business shies away from Boston due to the bandwidth issues. In all likelihood, Walsh is driving this to attract more business for the city....which is a good thing. It might be awhile before it trickles down for residential use.