City Journal: It’s the Network

A telecom exec and her squad of troubleshooters fire up our citywide WiFi.

There are 64,000 light poles spread out across Boston. Pam Reeve is taking an interest in each one. Where they’re located, how they’re powered—these things matter to Reeve, and to her team of technicians, who want to turn many of them into network beacons, key components in Mayor Menino’s ambitious plan to cover Boston with low-cost wireless Internet.

By the end of the month, Reeve—who heads the nonprofit group that’s making the city’s long-discussed idea a reality—will flip the switch on the network’s first pilot grid, a square mile of Roxbury around Dudley Square. From there, her team will fan out across town, adding coverage and working through private donors over the next year to collect upward of $20 million to finance the infrastructure (access will cost less than $15 a month). Reeve says the blanket signal will transform Boston, as office workers, students, city employees, and others unshackle themselves from their desks like never before. “The commercial potential, the educational potential, the civic potential for this,” she says, “it’s limitless.”