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Boston Appoints Web Advocate to Get Everyone Connected

Anne Schwieger is the city's new Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate, and is pushing for greater Web access and options for Bostonians.

(TNS) -- Boston is ratcheting up its push to bring high speed Internet access to all residents, hiring a new advocate as it tries to make the city more inviting for Web service providers.

“The city really views this as essential 21st century infrastructure,” said Anne Schwieger, who started in mid-December as the city’s new broadband and digital equity advocate. “Broadband and digital equity are this incredibly foundational component of everything else we do related to equity.”

Schwieger will be tasked with improving access to high speed Internet across a city where 90 percent of homes only have one option for a provider to connect them to the Web.

It is unclear what policy tools the city would use to convince a new provider to build across the city, but Schwieger said a key will be making it easier to expand service in Boston.

“Builders are choosing the cities that are easiest to work with, we want to be a city that doesn’t put undue red tape in front of them,” she said.

The city is also re-evaluating how it leases the Internet infrastructure it owns. Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Boston’s chief information officer, said the process for leasing can be complicated, and in one case a service provider opted to tear up the street and build its own pipes and wiring because it was cheaper than leasing conduit from the city.

David Talbot, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, said just having someone whose job is to increase Internet access is a plus.

“Having someone who’s focusing on that topic is really important to making sure all services are reaching all citizens,” Talbot said. “It’s very important to make sure the least fortunate citizens of Boston are getting great high speed Internet access just like anyone else.”

©2016 the Boston Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.