Verizon plans $300 million fiber network for Boston

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BOSTON – Ending nearly a decade of giving Boston the cold shoulder, Verizon Communications said Tuesday it will invest as much as $300 million to install the fiber-optic cables needed to offer its FiOS communications services to city residents, businesses and other institutions.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hailed the agreement, saying it will help to spur economic development and innovation in the city. “Boston is moving faster than our current infrastructure can support, and a modern fiber-optic communications platform will make us a next-level city,” Walsh said in a statement.

The first neighborhoods slated for the upgrades are in Dorchester, West Roxbury, and Dudley Square in Roxbury this year, and Hyde Park, Mattapan and other sections of Roxbury will be next in the six-year effort, according to Verizon. For its part, the city agreed to provide a streamlined permitting process for the work.

“We’ve forged a highly collaborative relationship with the city,” John O’Malley, a company spokesman, said by email. “This is the model of how the private and public sectors can work together to forge real progress for the community.”

The agreement came barely six months after Verizon representatives told the City Council that the company had no plans to expand its service in Boston, even though it is offered in many surrounding cities and towns, according to a Boston Herald report. In 2013, an account in the Boston Globe said the company had said it would be too costly to rewire the city with fiber cables capable of delivering television, Internet and telephone services to homes and businesses.

The late former Mayor Thomas M. Menino struggled fruitlessly for years to get the company to bring the upgraded service to the city. Now the shoe may be on the other foot as Verizon faces a strike as early as Wednesday by unions representing workers in the unit that would install the new network. A prolonged work stoppage could delay the initial work.

On Tuesday, Verizon kicked off its drive into the city by announcing a $100,000 donation to the city to finance on-demand Internet access through the Boston Public Library. The company also plans to let consumers influence which areas get the new services first by voting online.

“For people and groups who utilize the Roxbury Innovation Center, this fiber-optic build-out means better access to information, technology, and education services, while laying the groundwork for continued growth for years to come,” Alessandra Brown, the center’s program manager, said in a statement from Walsh’s office.

“The Dudley Square neighborhood, like so many areas of Boston, will greatly benefit from this fiber-optic network, enabling opportunity and promoting economic development,” she said.

Verizon’s FiOS service offers download speeds of up to 500 megabits per second, but it can cost close to $400 a month, company materials show. Boston’s two cable television providers, Comcast and RCN, may have their work cut out for them to compete on speed.

While bringing in new competition, Verizon also plans to work with the city on innovations like placing sensors and signal-control technology along streets that can measure traffic, including bicycles, to improve safety and vehicle flow, according to the statement from Walsh.

“This transformation isn’t just about advanced new fiber-optic technology – it’s about the innovative services this platform will allow people to create and use, today and in the future,” said Bob Mudge, president of Verizon’s Wireline Network unit. “We are a proud partner in building toward a brighter, shared future.”