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New York City Launches $157 Million Plan for Broadband Expansion

New York City has announced the next steps in executing its Internet Masterplan for universal broadband with the launch of a request for proposals (RFP), which it said represents “a first in the nation” approach to closing the digital divide. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has committed US$157 million in capital investment for the programme, including US$87 million redirected from the NYPD budget, and will make up to 100,000 city-owned assets available.

With almost one-third of New York City households lacking fixed broadband, the city is in the process of bringing affordable broadband options to a majority of the New York City Housing Authority developments. The New York City Internet Master Plan outlines how the city will affordable connectivity to a majority of NYCHA residents, with options to further scale affordable broadband to all neighbourhoods citywide.

The RFP will reach 600,000 New Yorkers with a focus on areas prioritised by the Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity, including 200,000 public housing residents, and the city expects to engage multiple internet service providers using a range of technologies.

The NYC Internet Master Plan indicates that 18% of New Yorkers – 1.5 million people – have neither a home nor a mobile internet connection, limiting their ability to access jobs, training, education and healthcare resources from home – particularly during the pandemic.

Broadband is not a luxury, it is a necessity. We are closing the digital divide and bringing our city into the 21st century by reaching communities most in need.

– New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

The Master Plan leverages the city’s real estate assets and public rights-of-way to deploy new infrastructure. According to the plan, the city will devote $157 million to expand broadband access, primarily by working with a wide range of companies to build out commercial fibre networks to nearly every street intersection, creating an aggregation point in every neighbourhood. From there fibre infrastructure network providers can extend the connection from the intersection to a pole or building and deliver service using any of several technologies.

The mobile and fixed wireless equipment will be placed throughout the city in a pattern that will resemble fibre’s distribution. Approved telecom units will be attached to both public and private properties, such as rooftops, street lights or utility poles.

The city plans to deploy public Wi-Fi for four use cases: streets, open space, public facilities and transit. Pedestrian corridors, or zones of high commercial activity that attract large numbers of people and local businesses, will be of priority for the street use case. While open space broadband will focus on parks, the public facilities and transit use cases will deploy access in libraries and subway stations.

The Mayor also announced that New York will accelerate 5G deployment by doubling the number of city street poles available for mobile carriers to 7,500, mainly in underserved areas to drive equitable rollout. Poles can be reserved via a new online portal and around 1,500 poles will be released each quarter over the next 15 months, with the first phase starting this month.

This project requires lots of partnership, cooperation and collaboration across city agencies, between the public and private sector and it requires being open to different ways of partnering.

– Aaron Meyerson, New York’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Broadband

All New Yorkers deserve affordable Internet access, no matter their zip code. With this historic effort to invest in broadband and 5G infrastructure, the city making tremendous strides toward closing the digital divide once and for all.

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