TELL US: Should Watertown Provide Free WiFi for Residents?

Other communities have wireless internet access for residents, and one Town Councilor wants to look at providing the option in town.


These days, with everyone carrying laptops, smart phones or a tablet, folks are always on the lookout for wireless internet service. One Town Councilor wants to make it easier for Watertown residents to get their Wi-Fi.

Angeline Kounelis recently suggested the town consider starting a project to provide free Wi-Fi to Watertown residents. The town would not be the first in the area to provide such a service.

"Mayor Menino wants to provide Wi-Fi to all citizens of Boston and Brookline has eight hot spots in town," Kounelis said.

In 2006, Boston started a pilot program to provide free wireless service in the Faneuil Hall area and around City Hall through wireless hotspots. 

The Brookline Wi-Fi program offers free wireless access in certain areas of town, including business districts like Coolidge Corner, as well as parks. Brookline also offers low-cost wireless internet service for town residents, starting at $19.95 a month for 1 Mbps speed access. 

The project could be funded by the Harvard/O'Neil Charitable Funds handed out by the town, Kounelis said. Half of the $100,000 to be doled out this year has been reserved for a project that the town would not be able to do with its regular budget.

The town could provide service to the whole town, or go the hotspot route, Kounelis said, but she said she does not yet have a preference of which direction to go.

Do you think Watertown should provide free Wi-Fi for town residents? Tell us in the comment section below.

GB November 05, 2012 at 12:29 PM
As long as it is not paid by taxes or affects the town budget in any way, I'm for it.
Nathanael Pine November 05, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I'm sure there is some cost to it. As long as it is very moderate, ie, < $10 per year per tax payer, I'd be okay with it.
Charlie Breitrose (Editor) November 05, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I think Angeline Kounelis was approached by some of her constituents. You are right, though, I was surprised the idea came from her.
K Coyne November 05, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I would ask a couple questions: What would the town be providing?( allowing for more antennas/cell towers...IMO we currently have enough and there are still outstanding questions as to health affects and children). Would they be providing laptops? Would the town be paying the provider(whoever it may be) for the overall service(and maintenance)? How much would this cost the town per year and projected out for the next 10-20 years? What is the % of town people without service currently? How would this free service perform? Would the additional users impact paying customers performance(by using an existing provider/capacity thus impacting overall performance)? My decision would be based on many of these questions so it is not simple answer.
Gary M November 05, 2012 at 04:31 PM
WaterInfo, Do you own a cellphone? If so, studies have clearly shown that cell phone usage is many times more hazardous than either a cell phone tower or wireless internet. This hysteria around health issues and cell phone towers is really a NIMBY issue started by Lowell School parents who don't want to see their property value decline by having a tall tower located at the DPW site. Sonny, in August, cited a "July 2012 GAO Report entitled "Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed" http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-771 in opposition of cell towers. Yet, the article only references cell phone usage "particularly when phones are held against the body". Sonny recently called people who own land lines instead of or in addition to cell phones as "luddites". So if you're sending out studies related to the harmful effects of cell phones, why wouldn't you use a land line instead of just a cell phone. I'll tell you why. It's all posturing by a group of people who are hypocritical.. Cell phones, if dangerous at all, are much more so than towers or wireless internet. It's a scientific matter of fact.
Joshua DeCosta November 05, 2012 at 05:12 PM
It would be nice as long as it wasn't too costly.
K Coyne November 05, 2012 at 05:31 PM
@GaryM Please read the entire post as health reasons were only one of the points to ponder with respect to the overall question of free wireless. You can certainly disagree with that point. With regard to the DPW and a cell tower, this is another issue,they are in a soft spot and currently have boosters to solve their problem(this could be used for other vendors too). Why use a hammer to kill an ant? Please look at the WHO(World Health Org. website and see that they still have no long term studies on children). Yes, I have one cell phone which I keep off my body most of the time. I use and support technology but we should not just throw technology at issues when it is not warranted or well thought out.
GB November 05, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Let's see what else the good Councilman has to say on the subject.
Peter Rettig November 05, 2012 at 09:16 PM
While it certainly would be nice to have, I feel that in our current climate of "fiscal challenges" it would not be wise for towns like Watertown to provide free WiFi. Tourist destinations like Faneuil Hall are different and more densely populated areas are also easier to cover. I'd also fear that the town would not be able to cover all residents and would spend much time, effort and money both on the technical and political aspects of limited coverage!
Gary M November 05, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Why use a hammer to kill an ant? I don't think you understand. The boosters you are talking about are a system called DAS that are mounted on light poles. In simple terms, let's call the amount of RF (radiation) emitted from a tower as 1. DAS would create a bunch of cells that would emit say 0.7 each. When you place your cellphone to your head the RF level would be the equivalent of 100. The difference between DAS and towers is inconsequential when compared to a cell phone. Also, if people were really concerned about RF why would cell phone usage among kids be rising? According to research by C&R Research, 22 percent of young children own a cell phone (ages 6-9), 60 percent of tweens (ages 10-14), and 84 percent of teens (ages 15-18). Why are people concerned with cell tower radiation (which is nominal) and then going out and buying their kids cell phones?? Wireless RF levels would fall in the same range as the towers.. I think Watertown should set up a few free hotspots as cities like Cambridge, Brookline and Boston have struggled to set up free citywide wireless - and they've been trying since 2006.
Julie Greene November 05, 2012 at 11:31 PM
How long do people really spend conversing on the phone nowadays, with the phone against their faces? Only a few minutes, if that. Folks seem more interested in using Facebook and texting. It's sad, because these venues are superficial by comparison. When I was a teen, I'd spend hours on the landline phone, stretching the darned coil-like cord to the limit so my prying parents wouldn't overhear...didn't every teen do that? We'd fight over who got to use the phone. Kids congregated around the pay phones in the neighborhoods, taking turns using it. We had REAL conversations, for hours and hours and hours into the night. What's become of that? Even knowing I'm burning a hole in my head, I'd rather have a meaningful conversation than chit-chat away and post cutesie photos on Facebook that no so-called "friend" even "likes." Julie Greene
Vinnie Dummerino November 06, 2012 at 12:18 AM
there is no credible scientific evidence that cellphone cause various health problems and particularly cancer nor any real credible scientific theory to support that view. I have reviwed that literature. But that does necessarily say that better data (that is prospective rather than retrospective) and theories (other than speculations by MD's) may not be forth coming. The Clevand Clinic studies in particular were just gawd awful and I use them in my doctoral research course as models of bad research as do profs at MIT and dozens of other places both in and outside of the US. The story on WiFi and various other microwaves currnetly flying around that have increased by a factor of 100,000 in the last 15 years is a whole other story and much stronger possibility of health problems although there is very little research on this point but a lot of good theory. For example, the studies done by the french in the 50's on the severe health effects on residents of low frequency sounds and vibrations of truck traffic on urban streets (good place to begin). I personally would rather have my trash services back and much better services that were yanked away from me without reducing my property taxes as that one barrel per residence makes those of us with bigger houses and higher tax assessments pay for other The Big Silence by the TC); it really is a rip off of the tax payers. What happened to all of those "savings" is my question.
K Coyne November 06, 2012 at 02:30 AM
To clarify your point, no, I was not talking about DAS but the 300-400$ boosters anyone can purchase(low cost/low Rf/small area). Also your argument that the increase in children having cell phones has no bearing on whether or not they are safe. Regardless of what you think concerning health concerns, there are many other aspects to look at , which I ask in the original post.
GB November 06, 2012 at 03:58 AM
I don't do any Social sites. Emailing is cheap and instantaneous and I have all I can do to keep up. Phone calls are the best way to stay in touch, but then, I guess we're old farts, huh?
Gary M November 07, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Sorry Sonny if my post was a little over your head. The point I was making was DAS is not significantly different from towers in RF levels, so just put up the tower..
K Coyne November 07, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Forgive my mis-posting, Gary M. I posted down below with respect to DAS. See my clarification(below) as there are other solutions which have small impact with respect to cost/RF but high impact with respect to solutions(thus my ant/hammer analogy).
Gary M November 07, 2012 at 02:31 PM
WaterInfo, Can you point me to a link regarding these boosters then? I want to educate myself on them. I know of personal boosters for say a single building., but not for a broader area. Also, it's a law that where there's a cell phone coverage dead spot the cell phone provider is allowed to put in a tower or apparatus to provide that coverage. My point regarding cell phone use in children, is that many of the people who are advocating against the tower for RF exposure in children, have provided their children with cell phones. Despite the fact that cell phones placed to the ear give off 100x more RF than a cell tower would... Regarding other points, we don't have the IT dept that Cambridge or Boston has to roll this out. And neither city has been able to blanket the city and they've been trying since 2006.. It'll cost way too much. The town should just stick to a couple of hotspots..
K Coyne November 07, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Gary, The DPW is not a dead spot, per say, but a soft spot. They use ,currently, boosters(like I mention to solve their problem. this problem was the impetus for a tower). Just go to Amazon.com to see any booster of this style and research them. If you look at the mappings of coverage(via providers) for Watertown you will see that there are no white(dead) areas. There are certainly soft spots and the town is getting a mapping of these via a study. On your point that the residents near the DPW 'don't want to see their property value decline', I would state this is a valid concern for any resident(since for most in Watertown their home is either their one big asset or one of their biggest assets). This is especially disconcerting if there is no actual need for a tower. At any rate, there are other factors to consider as I stated in my original post.
Gary M November 07, 2012 at 03:30 PM
WaterInfo, Dead spot/soft spot, it's been identified as an area of coverage gap and they are required by law to fill that gap. There already exists and 80 foot tower they'd be extending by 20 feet. Currently they go up, unchecked by the town, on private buildings. Towers currently go up in private residential areas. One was just put on a 2 family on Waverly. Why boosters are good in theory, wireless carriers can put up whatever they want on private residences. So while you and I are discussing they'll probably put one up across the street from the Lowell to fill the gap. And you and I can't do anything about it and the owner of that building gets paid by the cell provider to do so...
K Coyne November 07, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Gary M, Ok I'll bite one more time..you are missing the point. We are talking about a solution to a problem using various tools(as opposed to only one solution). I'm not sure why you are stuck on a Tower...mmmm. "They(providers)' only do what is in the best interest of their business as it is the cell tower companies that make $$ off of a tower not the provider. The provider only makes $$ if they re-coop the $$ they have to pay the Tower people by getting more residents to join/pay more. Wireless providers must prove to the town(if the town/residents ask) that there is a need for this extra antenna ..and specifically at this location a need for an antenna as opposed to another location.
K Coyne November 07, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Sonny, Not certain if you are referring to me or Gary M in case you are asking me: please see my original post back quite a few, which discusses the original question. Unfortunately, we went away from the main point of the discussion.
Gary M November 07, 2012 at 09:24 PM
WaterInfo, OK so let's assume that they have to put up 'stuff' to enable WIFI hotspots and it doesn't cost too much. Are you for it or against it?
K Coyne November 08, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Please see original posting.
NB November 11, 2012 at 10:47 PM
All for it as long as it is not costly..


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