The city is wiring up three public housing developments for free broadband starting this fall, Mayor de Blasio announced yesterday. The initiative is meant to expand access to information and opportunities for some of New York's poorest families, and comes at the same time as a federal push to get companies to offer affordable internet to 27 cities, including New York, and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma.
De Blasio is committing $10 million to equip the Mott Haven Houses in the Bronx, the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn, and the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing complex in the country. As the Associated Press notes: "Twenty-two percent of city households don't have Internet service, and 36 percent of households below the poverty line don't have it, according a recent analysis by the Center for Economic Opportunity."
At a press conference yesterday, NYCHA head Shola Olatoye said the half of public housing residents have internet access, but that's mostly through "personal devices." With this initiative, wireless networks will provide internet service of at least 25 Mbps for all residents.
“Can you fix the plumbing first?” Red Hook Houses resident Shawna Simmonds asked a Daily News reporter when told about the free broadband. "[We have] bigger problems. We have living issues. Quality-of-living issues.”
The project has not yet been contracted out, so the startup total hasn't been finalized, and the city doesn't know how much it will cost to maintain, according to a spokeswoman for mayoral counsel Maya Wiley. Wiley told reporters that Queensbridge could come online as soon as 2016. “No child should worry about whether or not she can finish her homework because her family can’t afford broadband at home,” Wiley added.
The federal ConnectHome program is expanding further through the Bronx, as well, with Sprint making mobile Wi-Fi devices available to over 15,000 NYCHA households that include K-12 students. The program, which is a partnernship with HUD, is expected to benefit approximately 28,000 Bronx children.