Mayor Walsh Just Flipped the Switch on for ‘Wicked Free WiFi’

Couldn't they have used a different name? Probably not.

WiFi Image via City of Boston

WiFi Image via City of Boston

If you can get over the fact that the term “wicked” has jumped the shark now that officials in suits and ties are slinging it around haphazardly, then you can start to enjoy the “Wicked Free” WiFi that’s now available in parts of Boston.

For the last two years, members of the City Council have been trying to think of ways to bring Internet access to business districts and underserved neighborhoods through plans like installing WiFi hot-spots in old, abandoned pay phones. But now they don’t have to worry about it, because Mayor Marty Walsh and the city’s Department of Innovation Technology just flipped the switch to make it easier to connect to the web while walking around.

“Closing the digital divide and providing free public WiFi in our neighborhoods is essential,” said Walsh while standing in the Grove Hall neighborhood on Wednesday, where the largest concentration of access points are available to the public. “We want every Bostonian to have the same opportunities in today’s digital world. WiFi access plays a significant role in every aspect of our lives from learning to earning. Our goal is to strengthen and expand our public network, and reach more families and businesses.”

Walsh said that Wicked Free WiFi could also help existing businesses keep their customers mulling around, as well as attract new customers that may want to stop into a restaurant or café while using the new service in designated zones. “There are a lot of dead zones, so how do we look to make sure Boston is connected? We looked at [these] districts first. Main Street areas are the next logical step. People invest all the money they have in small businesses,” said Walsh.

The connectivity was made possible through grants, and the city’s own fiber optic network, called BoNet.

Already, the service is available at more than 170 access points (as seen above in the map that the city just released) and is reaching thousands of users. Signs will be going up to let users know if they’re in a free WiFi zone or not. Areas where the service is up and running include Allston, Boston Common, Charlestown, parts of Dorchester and Roxbury, City Hall, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, Faneuil Hall, Hyde Park, and South Boston.

Within the next two years the “Main Street” areas will get the free WiFi treatment, Walsh said. Plans are in the works to connect 20 neighborhood commercial districts, with an estimated 130 access points, “to drive economic development and develop municipal Wi-Fi to underserved areas.”