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West Roxbury will be first to get Verizon’s Fios service

JUSTIN LANE/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Verizon Communications has selected a portion of West Roxbury as the first area to get its fiber-optic Internet and TV service in Boston following an unusual marketing campaign that asked city residents to rally their neighbors in an online poll.

Construction will begin in September in the northwest section of West Roxbury, with service to the first customers commencing in late 2016, Verizon said Thursday.

A second area of the city, focused on what the city calls its “innovation district” in Roxbury’s Dudley Square, is also expected to have the company’s high-speed Fios service by year’s end, Verizon said.

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The first offer from Verizon will be high-speed Internet service; video service will follow once the city grants Verizon a cable TV franchise.

The company said it is already conducting preliminary work, such as installing bigger cables and surveying its existing utility poles and conduit.

“We’re where we want to be, in that we see them actively working and having boots on the ground for the installation,” said Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Boston’s chief information officer.

The $300 million project will involve replacing Verizon’s existing copper wires with fiber-optic cables that can transmit large volumes of information at high speed. The rollout, however, will start in a few neighborhoods, including Dorchester, and Verizon has said it may take up to six years to cover the entire city.

Verizon initially estimated the work would start “as soon as this summer,” but the company confronted a labor action: More than 36,000 East Coast Verizon workers, including some 5,000 Massachusetts employees, went on strike the day after the company announced its Boston upgrade project.

The two sides reached tentative agreement on a new contract in late May. Franklin-Hodge said the labor unrest contributed to a “slow start,” but noted progress has improved since June and expects Verizon to keep to its original time frame.

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Verizon’s upgrade will give Boston residents a higher-speed Internet option both at work and home, along with competition for cable TV service.

Comcast is the dominant provider in Massachusetts and has nearly 2 million Internet and cable TV subscribers in Greater Boston. But city officials have said that 90 percent of Boston residents have only one choice for broadband Internet.

Verizon has divided city neighborhoods into zones and encouraged residents to vote online to have their area served sooner.

The company expects to reveal more details about service in two neighborhoods, Dorchester and Roslindale, in the coming days. Construction in the second group of neighborhoods — Hyde Park, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, and additional parts of Roxbury — is expected to begin in 2018, Verizon said Thursday.

At their announcement in April, city and company officials highlighted the decision to have low-income neighborhoods among the first to receive the high-speed service, by convening the press conference at the Bolling municipal building in Dudley Square.

Franklin-Hodge said city officials did not dictate which neighborhoods should get service first, but told the company that its footprint should “look like Boston.”

“What would be unacceptable to us is a build-out in which only wealthy neighborhoods got access to fiber, or in which parts of the city that needed broadband service got passed over for reasons of economic convenience,” he said.

Documents filed with the city late Wednesday provided more detail about Verizon’s planned fiber-optic network: The company plans to build a “fiber to the premises” system, with fiber-optic cables connecting directly to homes and businesses.

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Verizon has said that residential Internet speeds will reach up to 500 megabits per second. Its current Internet service, as measured by independent monitoring site Speedtest, reaches just 7.53 Mbps in the city.

Speedtest lists Comcast’s Xfinity service as the fastest in the Boston area, with download speeds of about 106 Mbps. RCN, a smaller provider, is ranked second at nearly 101 Mbps.

Verizon’s fiber-optic service could also boost its mobile network, giving the company a high-speed backbone for eventually upgrading to a next-generation 5G wireless service. Business customers could also pay for extremely high speeds, up to 10 gigabits per second.


Curt Woodward can be reached at curt.woodward@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @curtwoodward.