John Tobin

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2006-01-02 Print this article Print

John Tobin, Boston city councilor for District 6

What public policy goals are served by the Boston Main Streets Wi-Fi project?

It should always be our mission to make the next generation better. Boston has a lot going for it because weve been able to stay ahead of the curve and evolve.

The Internet is the communications device of our generation, and if you dont have access to it, youre left behind—socially, economically, academically. We have to give all people an opportunity to get online.

Do you see it as the proper role of government to be involved in providing communications services?

Im not looking for the city of Boston to become a utility. We have enough trouble keeping the streets lighted and keeping the streets paved. However, I do think we have a responsibility to be a convener [in making Internet access available], and I think weve accomplished that.

How have you managed to avoid the heated controversies surrounding municipal Wi-Fi projects in other cities?

Sometimes it pays not to be first. We monitored closely what Philadelphia was doing. We saw that situation, and we said that were here to make friends and not enemies. We invited Comcast [Corp.] and Verizon to the table at the first summit. They declined to participate, but they were in the audience. I wanted to bring them to the table so theyd know theres no hidden agenda here.

What is the next step for Boston in terms of deploying Wi-Fi?

I think the next step is to do an analysis on these four projects before they bring it out to the next four or five neighborhoods. I think they are wise to start out small, rather than just going out and trying to light up the whole city at once.

Next Page: Wallace Olsen.


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