NYC To Expand Internet For Low-Income Families

NYC To Expand Internet For Low-Income Families
The internet. (Photo: Zainab Iqbal/Bklyner)

BROOKLYN – In a time where New Yorkers need access to the internet more than ever, the city will be accelerating broadband internet deployment in all five boroughs in an effort to connect 600,000 underserved people to jobs, training, education, mental health supports, and healthcare resources from home. The money is coming from the NYPD budget that was slashed.

The Mayor’s Office, along with the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity will be making a $157 million investment in “ending digital redlining and providing high-speed internet, including $87 million redirected from the NYPD budget,” the Mayor’s office said. The new internet services will also be provided to 200,000 NYCHA residents over the next 18 months, creating “a path to NYCHA-wide implementation and universal broadband across New York City.”

As part of the plan, the city will be working with Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises service provides and community-based organizations to create a “pipeline to jobs by training, certifying, and employing adults and youth to install and operate network infrastructure.”

“Our mission to deliver affordable, high-quality internet service has never felt more urgent,” de Blasio said. “COVID-19 has further exposed the inequalities in internet access while changing the way New Yorkers work, learn, and live. Accelerating universal broadband access will make our city healthier, safer, and more equal.”

According to the NYC Internet Master Plan, 40% of NYC households lack the combination of home and mobile broadband, including 18% of residents – more than 1.5 million people – who lack both.

“This significant portion of the city’s residents face barriers to education, employment, banking, healthcare, social networks, and government services in ways that other residents do not,” the Internet Master Plan states. “The millions of under-connected New Yorkers tend to have lower household incomes compared to more digitally-connected households.”

The Plan also states that internet use is foundational to economic mobility, but the costs can impose a burden on low-income families. “New York City households living in poverty might need to spend as much as 10% of their monthly budget to have a home broadband connection and a single mobile connection. These expenses further strain households already struggling to pay rent, access healthcare, and buy food.”

Residents in areas of Brooklyn and Queens “have fewer service options, which may be of lower quality. Gaps in fiber optic infrastructure can limit the types of businesses that take root in a neighborhood or the potential for small businesses already there to grow and adopt new technologies.”

“Residents in these neighborhoods are less likely to experience the benefits of future technologies that rely on this infrastructure,” the Plan states. “Over time, without broadband as a foundational resource, neighborhood economies risk losing ground in the face of regional, national, and international competition. The digital divide in New York City is a serious barrier to economic opportunity for residents and small businesses and a threat to long-term economic growth.”

According to the Mayor’s office, the first phase of implementing the plan is currently underway. The Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, working with NYCHA and the NYC Economic Development Corporation collected proposals, which then identified ready-to-deploy ideas or pilot projects that will provide residents at NYCHA units with reduced-cost internet service options. Such options include new products, pricing, new service choices with discounted rates for public housing residents, and free Wi-Fi.

The City expects full deployment of the program occurring throughout 2020 and 2021.

“As our lives increasingly move online, especially during a time where in-person engagement risks the health and safety of New Yorkers, it is critical that communities of color are not left behind due to their inability to afford internet access,” J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives and co-chair of the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity said. “Not only will affordable broadband service increase access to health care, educational opportunities and jobs, it will also strengthen participation in our democracy.”

“By giving historically underrepresented communities the ability to register to vote, fill out the Census, engage with elected officials, and take other actions online,” he continued, “we can ensure their voices are heard and included in decision-making as we work to create a fair and equitable recovery in New York City.”