Free and Low-Cost Internet for New York City

New Yorkers in 13 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) locations will be offered internet for no more than $20 a month.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday a major milestone in the City’s effort to bring new internet connectivity options to residents of the NYCHA and create a shift in the local broadband market. As part of New York City’s implementation of the Internet Master Plan for Universal Broadband, the City has executed license agreements with five internet service providers to offer high-speed internet access for up to 30,000 residents in 13 NYCHA developments. NYCHA is currently in the process of finalizing an agreement with a sixth internet service provider. 

The five vendors with executed license agreements — Starry, Sky Packets, Silicon Harlem, Flume, and NYC Mesh — are finalists selected from the City’s Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) issued in partnership with the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in June 2020.  Three developments selected through this process will receive free WiFi on public grounds, while the remaining 10 developments will be wired for affordable in-unit internet access. This effort is part of the Mayor’s commitment to extend broadband to New Yorkers in the hardest-hit communities identified by the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity.

“In this day and age, high-quality internet service is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “By investing in broadband infrastructure, we drive forward a recovery for all of us—both by delivering much-needed resources to NYCHA families and making significant progress on our commitment to close the city’s digital divide.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we work, learn and connect to resources, and universal broadband access is essential for communities of color that were hardest-hit by COVID-19 to build back stronger,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “This historic investment will open the door for industry leaders to deliver innovative technology solutions that end the digital divide and ensure a fair recovery for all.”

“Affordable broadband is critical for 21st century life,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin. “The Internet connects millions of New Yorkers to work, education, healthcare, family and more. I’m thrilled these partnerships will bring high-speed connectivity to 30,000 NYCHA residents as we implement our nation-leading Internet Master Plan.”

“A 21st century recovery for all of us means increasing access to critical infrastructure like broadband,” said Deputy Mayor Vicki Been. “For too long, the digital divide has prevented many New Yorkers—including families, students, and seniors—from accessing the Internet where they live. The Internet Master Plan is our boldest investment in universal broadband to date, and I’m thrilled we’ve partnered with these providers to speed up access to this vital resource for 30,000 NYCHA residents.”

“We have witnessed how transformational internet connectivity can be to the lives of New Yorkers. Now, 30,000 more NYCHA residents are gaining affordable broadband options through the City’s bold and innovative approach. The Internet Master Plan is changing lives for the better by making education, opportunity, and healthcare more accessible. In addition, broadband creates opportunities to strengthen bonds with family, friends, and community,” said New York City Chief Technology Officer John Paul Farmer. “Building on this notable progress, the City will continue to facilitate partnerships with internet service providers that share the goal of affordable, high-speed internet for all New Yorkers.”     

“New York City is closer to achieving its goal of becoming a fairer and equitable city with launching the Internet Master Plan for Universal Broadband,” said NYCEDC Acting President Rachel Loeb. “Through this Master Plan, five vendors will provide access to affordable, high-speed internet options for 30,000 NYCHA residents. We’re thrilled the City has reached a milestone to close the digital divide, which for too long has had a disproportionate impact in communities that need it the most.”

“The Authority is committed to expanding the quality of internet service options available to our residents by leveraging emerging technologies and identifying innovative partnership opportunities,” said NYCHA Chair & CEO Greg Russ. “We want to thank the City, MOCTO, and NYCEDC for working with us on this important milestone of making high-speed broadband service more accessible to public housing residents across New York City.”

“Digital equity must be a priority and this initiative demonstrates our commitment to ending the divide. Free and low cost broadband access is crucial for NYCHA residents and communities of color to have equitable access to work, learning, healthcare, government services and other essential resources,” said Sideya Sherman, Executive Director of the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity and EVP for Community Engagement and Partnerships, NYCHA. “This gap existed before the pandemic and is even more critical now. This unprecedented investment, which accelerates the Internet Master Plan, demonstrates how the City can work creatively, across government, to meet the moment.”

This RFEI offered a unique opportunity for internet service providers, both large and small, to propose their plans and partnership ideas to use new access to NYCHA buildings and facilities  to rapidly close the digital divide for this slice of New Yorkers. Respondents proved the City’s theory: that when the City offers new assets — including building common areas, facades, rooftops, light poles, and other physical structures that can be used for broadband installation — a diverse set of companies will enter the market with lower cost service options that present competition to the large companies offering limited high-quality service options to New Yorkers.  These new companies prove that you can bring new connectivity options to public housing communities and to low-connectivity neighborhoods to close the digital divide. 

In the target neighborhoods, internet service providers charge anywhere from $40/month to $110/month. With this RFEI, vendors will provide free or low-cost internet service residents can sign up for no more than $20/month.

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