Tag: "new york city"

Posted April 22, 2021 by Jericho Casper

The pandemic exacerbated extreme economic, racial, and social disparities that have long characterized New York City neighborhoods. When the pandemic hit, the "City That Never Sleeps" experienced the worst single-year job decline since the 1930s, with communities of color bearing the brunt of the disease itself in addition to the rising levels of unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and food insecurity it brought on. 

Aiming to alleviate these deeply-entrenched challenges, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio formed the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity last April to survey community organizations in NYC districts most severely impacted by COVID-19. As that work got underway, taskforce co-chair Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson kept hearing a resounding call for access to the Internet. Three months into the pandemic, de Blasio reported that 18 percent of all New Yorkers, more than 1.5 million city residents, had neither a home or a mobile connection, mainly due to issues of affordability. 

In response to the public outcry, Mayor de Blasio set to work enacting New York City’s Internet Master Plan, starting with a $157 million initiative which will direct public and private investment to fund broadband infrastructure and expand low-cost or no-cost Internet access to 600,00 New Yorkers, including 200,000 city residents living in public housing, within 18 months.

The implementation of the Master Plan comes as the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) released revised Design Guidelines requiring new affordable housing projects that use city funds to be “designed and constructed to provide high-quality [I]nternet access and service as part of their lease contract...

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Posted April 15, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

New York City is looking to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s broadband gap for residents living in newly built affordable housing.

Last month, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) released revised Design Guidelines requiring new affordable housing projects that use city funds to be “designed and constructed to provide high-quality [I]nternet access and service as part of their lease contract and at no additional cost to the tenant.”

That means all new affordable housing buildings that use city funds must be wired, “to the maximum extent feasible,” to offer free high-speed Internet access that supports “four simultaneous moderate users or devices, with preferred system capacity of 100 Megabits per Second (Mbps) upload and download, per unit.”

The guidelines further stipulate that residents should also be given the option to increase their household’s level of service “at their own cost.”

“As we continue to produce affordable housing at record pace, this Administration is equally committed to ensuring that housing contributes to creating a more equitable and sustainable city. That is why our new Design Guidelines incorporate lessons learned from COVID-19 and follow best practices to promote equity, health, and sustainability,” HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll said in a press release when the new guidelines were announced. 

HPD officials said the health and economic fall-out of the pandemic had a “devastating” and “disproportionate” impact on low-income city residents, particularly communities of color.

A Pressing Need

According to the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, 29% of New York City households, nearly half of whom are living in poverty, do not have a high-speed Internet...

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Posted January 1, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Happy new year everyone!

We're still on hiatus here until Monday, but Annie McDonough, a tech and policy reporter at City & State, released a piece recently worth reading about the work we have to do in framing a post-Covid 19 policy future. It collects the results of conversations with "urban planning and policy experts, health care and environmental advocates, and local and state lawmakers about the bold steps they’d like to see taken in New York."

She frames the discussion:

[A]s the country begins the massive work of vaccinating people, we’re starting to imagine what life looks like on the other side of the pandemic. Do we revert to the status quo? Do we attempt to chip away at those long-standing inequalities with some version of the solutions we’ve tried before? Or do we use this crisis as an excuse to take big, ambitious swings? 

"New York," the piece says those experts collectively argue, "should use this moment to pursue bold policy ideas that not only aid our recovery, but ensure that in a future crisis, all New Yorkers are protected from the worst effects witnessed in the past eight months." 

Municipal broadband sits first on the list of the five ideas covered in the piece (the others being single-payer healthcare, radically more friendly multi-modal transportation, the end of exclusionary zoning, and a universal basic income) that McDonough offers as a result of those discussions. Among them, it has arguably both the strongest track record of existing success stories in the Unites States as well as deep support from a wide collection of diverse interest groups.

Head over to City and State to read the whole piece, stay healthy, and we'll see you back in the office next week.

Posted November 30, 2020 by Sean Gonsalves

The failure of policy and leadership at the federal level in addressing the digital divide was ever more clearly exposed as Covid-19 restrictions were put into place last spring. And, as the pandemic continues to rage, daunting connectivity challenges remain. 

Yes, the Connect America Fund (CAF) II program has doled out over $11 billion since 2015 in subsidies to the big telcos like AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, Windstream, and Consolidated ostensibly to upgrade rural broadband to speeds of at least 10/1 Megabits per second (Mbps). But, as Doug Dawson, president of CCG Consulting notes, it’s been a massive subsidy failure given that “even in 2015, it was ludicrous to spend money to build 10/1 Mbps broadband” – the same year the FCC defined broadband as 25/3 Mbps, which means “the FCC was investing in new Internet infrastructure in 2015 that didn’t qualify as broadband at the time of the award of funding.”

And there is reason to doubt that those subsidized upgrades were even completed, even as the FCC just extended the CAF II program for a seventh year.

So as states — and in many instances, local municipalities — step into the breach, the National Governors Association has released a new report that outlines a list of strategies governors can use to increase broadband access in underserved communities. 

Published just before Thanksgiving, the report first lays out the challenge:

According to the FCC, in 2018, at least 18.3 million people lacked access to fixed broadband in the United States that meets minimum [I]nternet access speed of 25/3. 1 Of those 18.3 million people, representing 6 percent of the total population, 14 million live in rural areas and 1 million live on Tribal lands, which amounts to 22 percent and 28 percent of those respective geographic populations [even as] studies have claimed that the FCC data is undercounting the number of people in the U.S. without fixed broadband access, and that the total may be as high as 42 million people.

“In addition to lack of access, the cost of broadband services remains a considerable barrier for many households,” the report points out. “The COVID-19 pandemic has...

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Posted June 9, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher talks to Scott Rasmussen, an organizer with the nonprofit, volunteer-run community network NYC Mesh. Scott shares his experiences connecting residential New Yorkers and local businesses across the city to fixed wireless, and the creative solutions they’ve taken to build a hyperlocal network in a cityscape of tall buildings.

Scott and Christopher also discuss the impact and potential of locally owned mesh networks. They talk about reliability and resiliency, and how the design and deployment of NYC Mesh meant that it was among the few to remain online after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. They talk about the power of self-determination and decentralization, and how owning the network offers opportunities to build neighborhood cohesiveness and empower the community. They talk about the power of a network that’s not artificially throttled to support price tiers, doesn’t fund big monopoly telecoms, and prevents its traffic from data mining for advertising efforts.

Scott describes NYC Mesh’s commitment to diversity, transparency, equity, education, and outreach, and how the network’s structure and financing — it’s entirely funded by voluntary recurring donations of $20 by member-owners — mean that no one loses connectivity during times of hardship. NYC Mesh also has a number of projects aimed at affordable housing, and he tells Christopher about the particular challenges to connecting old residential buildings.

We’ve covered mesh networks before, including those in...

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Posted May 29, 2020 by Christopher Mitchell

I have been tracking from afar local grassroots efforts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to start a municipal broadband network for years. I've visited them locally and spoken to various people from citizens to elected officials about the different options. The following are my observations. I'm not trying to channel their thoughts on how to move forward.

Cambridge is a high-tech city with nearly ubiquitous coverage from Comcast, delivering more or less the same services they offer to millions of homes — which is too say mostly reliable and high-cost Internet access (that will be still higher cost next year and the next after that). In the case of Comcast, it comes with crippled upload speeds compared to fast download capacity. Customer service is . . . well, you do your best to never have to use it.

But with MIT and Harvard within its confines, many in Cambridge are well aware that Internet access can get so much better and not be mediated by a company willing to spend millions in D.C. to preserve its right to set up tollbooths for certain kinds of content if they so choose.

However, Cambridge is remarkably similar to Palo Alto, which is also home to high tech households that mostly use Comcast cable and sometimes have the option of AT&T fiber. And in both instances, there is a strong case for some kind of municipal network that would create more local Internet choice. Both appear to have significant support in the community for a public option. But both also have city staff that have decided to prevent any meaningful investment.

They have run into the challenge that Seattle also wrestled with. These high profile cities have refused to consider creative, incremental, and targeted efforts. Instead, they have focused almost entirely on the costs of duplicating Chattanooga or Wilson, where the community built the entire citywide at once with debt-financed capital.

In Cambridge, the city council is rebelling after having been stymied by a city manager that has successful resisted efforts to study municipal broadband for years.

City Manager DePasquale has consistently refused to act on municipal broadband despite a...

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Posted January 7, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

New York City has been looking for a way to address Internet access disparities - quality, pricing, and infrastructure investment - for years. Their New York City Internet Master Plan from the Mayor's Office of the Chief Technology Officer, released today, recognizes that the current market solution has failed "The Big Apple" and its residents. In order to move forward and to extend broadband to all New Yorkers, the city will take a more active role, which will include open access fiber optic infrastructure and nurturing private sector investment.

Read the New York City Internet Master Plan here.

The Market Failure

The highly-anticipated report, which we hope to cover more in-depth after we've had more time to dig deeper into its 88 pages, describes the breadth of the problem and digs into why New York's Internet access availability is fraught with so much disparity. Other urban centers that struggle with similar digital disparities can use this groundbreaking approach as a foundation to study their own communities and search for a way to bring broadband to everyone.

From the Executive Summary:

The private market has failed to deliver the Internet in a way that works for all New Yorkers. Citywide, 29 percent of households do not have a broadband subscription at home. The same percentage of households are without a mobile broadband connection. The substantial overlap between these under-connected populations means that 18 percent of residents – more than 1.5 million New Yorkers – have neither a mobile connection nor a home broadband connection.

The report notes that the millions of New Yorkers who are not connected also tend to be those from lower-income households who don't have broadband at home. Competition tends to be only in high-density neighborhoods with high income households, which needs to change. The report accentuates the correlation between income levels and disparities in broadband service with striking maps.

...

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Posted December 5, 2017 by Lisa Gonzalez

On November 15th, the City of New York announced that it was looking for ideas to bring high-quality connectivity to every resident and business. Their goal is to get every one connected by 2025; they’re starting with a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas for potential strategies and partnerships. Responses are due January 19th.

The Big Apple’s effort comes on the heels of San Francisco’s decision to invest in municipal broadband to connect the entire city. New York’s RFI states that they will use all their assets — from rooftop to, to poles, to organizational resources — to move their efforts along so New Yorkers can enjoy fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. City leaders want to exhaust all avenues and are encouraging both public and private sectors to become involved in the initiative.

The Vision

In their vision, New York City leaders have identified five goals they wish to achieve through better broadband infrastructure:

Promote competition in the residential and commercial broadband markets.

Provide high-speed residential Internet service for low-income communities currently without service.

Increase investment in broadband corridors to reach high-growth business districts, with a focus on outer-borough neighborhoods.

Promote seamless user experience across public networks to create high speed access across the boroughs.

Explore innovative ways to provide high-speed Internet to homes, businesses, and the public.

At this point, they’re open to any technology or business model that can achieve these goals and is future proof.

Resources

As part of the RFI, the city provides links to New York’s essential reports and information about assets, including information about franchise agreements, micro trenching rules, and Wi-Fi hotspots. There’s also a link to the Queensbridge Connected program, the high-speed Internet service for folks living in the Queensbridge Houses. We spoke with the city’s Senior Advisor to the CTO Joshua Breitbart in May about the project during...

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Posted May 19, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 254 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Christopher Mitchell sits down with Joshua Breitbart, the Senior Advisor for Broadband to the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of New York City. Listen to this episode here.

Joshua Breitbart: From New York City, I think that we are maybe the first city to begin to look at how we can take responsibility for the space of the Internet itself.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 254 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Finding ways for lower income individuals and families to obtain high quality Internet access is a problem in most urban areas. As Internet access becomes more central to our lives for everyday tasks, solving that problem becomes more immediate. In New York City the Queensbridge Connected project is aiming to solve that problem by working with a private sector partner and involving the community. This initiative will bring high-speed Wi-Fi to residents of Queensbridge Housing, which is part of the New York City Public Housing Authority. In this interview, Christopher talks with Joshua Breitbart who works for New York City. Joshua describes how the project has progressed, how they view the Queensbridge Connected project as a model of other parts of the city, and shares some of the lessons learned that have helped guide the project. Now here's Christopher and Joshua Breitbart talking about New York City's Queensbridge Connected initiative.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell, still in my hotel room, talking with another person from the Broadband Community Summit down here in Dallas, 2017. Welcome to the show, Joshua Breitbart. Senior advisor for Broadband to the CTO of New York City.

Joshua Breitbart: Hello, Chris. Good to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: I'm excited to have you on the show. I've talked with you a few times. You've been doing a lot of interesting stuff. I know you've been doing interesting stuff for many years but you've gone from somebody who was doing interesting policy, in the ground grassroots working with neighborhood groups, to working for...

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Posted May 16, 2017 by Christopher Mitchell

Some time ago, when speaking with Joshua Breitbart, the Senior Advisor for Broadband to the New York City CTO Miguel Gamiño, he mentioned to me that any subset of the issues they face with regard to improving Internet access in New York City is itself a massive issue. Joshua joins us to elaborate on that challenge and an exciting project that points to the way to solving some of their problems on episode 254 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. 

We talk about Queensbridge Connected, a partnership to ensure people living in low-income housing have access to broadband Internet connections. We also discuss how their responsibility does not end merely with making Wi-Fi available, but actually helping people be prepared to use the connection safely.

Joshua offers an important perspective on the challenges in large urban areas to make sure policy is fully responsive to local needs by ensuring residents are a part of the process and solution. 

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 21 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

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