Mayor’s Weekly Column

MeninoFacePicFrom the Desk of Thomas M. Menino

Boston is a city known for its history, but we are also a city focused on growth and on becoming a leader in technology and innovation in the 21st century. As technology evolves and people and business increasingly rely on connecting electronically, it is a priority to provide access to this important technology to as many residents as possible. Boston has an excellent digital infrastructure and Boston Broadband offers wireless access in many areas of the city, from the Rose Kennedy Greenway to Grove Hall, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

This week, I was excited to announce that the City of Boston will use $1.9 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to further develop the Boston Broadband program. Thanks to the hard work of our Congressional leaders who recognized the importance of this funding for Boston, the city will now be able to provide over 18,000 people with internet access every week, equaling over a 40-percent increase across the city.

The Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan was the first location this week to receive the upgrade, as decade-old computers were replaced with 15 brand-new state-of-the-art desktops featuring cutting edge software. Local families and students will now be able to use the updated technology to gain basic work skills online, apply for jobs, study for the MCAS and access multimedia. These critical skills will help them move forward and succeed in an increasingly digital world and give them an edge in a competitive job market. This is just the first example of what the rest of the sites and neighborhoods will soon benefit from.

With this funding, the Boston Broadband program will provide 627 new computers and job training software for the public at 48 computing centers located in public housing developments, community centers and libraries across the city, with installation to be completed by early 2011. When complete, nearly 18,000 people a week will be able to access broadband internet as well as updated, state-of-the-art equipment and software designed for various subject matters and to meet the needs of residents of all ages. This innovative, multi-agency effort across city agencies demonstrates a great use of federal stimulus money to benefit neighborhoods all across the city, from Hyde Park to East Boston.

From federal grants to a proposal for Google to bring their cutting-edge network to Boston, we continue to aggressively pursue options to further develop the broadband infrastructure in Boston for all of our residents, businesses and visitors. Access to technology is a critical component for the future of any successful city, as it enhances access to educational opportunities, fosters innovation, creates jobs and stimulates the economy. It is something that all residents should be able to take advantage of, not just those who can afford to pay for internet through private service providers. By increasing access and upgrading our technology at our city’s libraries, community centers and public housing, we are ensuring that all of our residents can benefit from this technology.