July 27, 2021
Bloc Power to make high-speed internet access available for up to 10,000 residents in five Bronx NYCHA developments
Major milestone in Internet Master Plan for Universal Broadband
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO) John Paul Farmer announced today a major milestone in the City’s effort to bring new internet connectivity options to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents and to 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 of New York and NYCHA have executed agreements with a sixth vendor: New York City based internet service provider, Bloc Power, to offer high-speed internet access for up to 10,000 residents in five NYCHA developments in the Bronx.
The developments include Melrose, East 152 Street-Courtlandt Avenue, Forest, Morris I, and Morris II. Access to broadband for residents who sign up will be free for the first year and $15/month beyond.
“Building a recovery for all of us means giving New Yorkers the tools they need to stay connected, at prices they can afford,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Expanding access for another 10,000 NYCHA residents will make our city fairer and more accessible for generations of New Yorkers, and I’m proud to see the Internet Master Plan deliver for communities who need it the most.”
“As COVID-19 has increased our dependency on Internet access, it has further exposed the inequity of resources available in our Black and Brown neighborhoods. Universal broadband is a lifeline for the communities hardest hit by COVID-19, affecting their connections to employment, education and financial tools,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “This expansion means that more New Yorkers will have access to remote learning, telemedicine and new opportunities for employment in the 21st century economy.”
“With every additional New Yorker who gains access to affordable, high-speed internet, we bring this City one step closer to being the fairest, most equitable big city in the country,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin. “We celebrate this additional deployment of broadband in the Bronx, bringing thousands of residents consistent connection to the digital world.”
Bloc Power is the sixth finalist selected from the City’s Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) issued in partnership with the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in June 2020. 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. The first five licensing agreements will increase access for up to 30,000 residents, bringing the total number of residents with increased broadband options due to the RFEI to up to 40,000.
“This announcement is part of the first phase of moving the Internet Master Plan for Universal Broadband from bold vision to New Yorkers’ everyday reality,” said John Paul Farmer, Chief Technology Officer for the City of New York. “Bloc Power will bring affordable internet connectivity to 10,000 residents in the Bronx, illustrating just how powerful partnerships between the public and private sectors can be when they are founded on principles that prioritize what New Yorkers really need: equity, performance, affordability, privacy and choice.”
“This pandemic has highlighted the need for broadband access in every corner of the city, especially where children need to learn and folks need the option to work safely,” said NYCEDC President and CEO Rachel Loeb. “Bringing high-speed Internet access to all New Yorkers is key to making the city more equitable and economically more viable.”
“The infrastructure of our buildings, public spaces, and common areas is interwoven into the fabric of New York City. It’s significant that we are able to leverage these assets by working with partners like Bloc Power to provide free and reduced-cost internet service options,” said Eva Trimble, New York City Housing Authority Executive Vice President for Strategy & Innovation. “Expanding opportunities through broadband access is a central part of our mission to supporting the economic mobility, public health, and public safety of our residents.”
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 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 compete with 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.
“We are excited to support the City's leadership in closing the digital divide and creating employment opportunities for underserved communities,” said Keith Kinch, General Manager and Co-Founder of Bloc Power. “We are delighted to kick off the installation phase of this project and bring WiFi to hundreds of thousands of families in the South Bronx.”
About the Internet Master Plan
In January 2020, the City announced the New York City Internet Master Plan, a first-in-nation plan that provides the roadmap to universal broadband in New York City, and the steps the City will take to close the digital divide. Providing equitable broadband is vital to ensuring economic prosperity, digital inclusion, and full participation of all New Yorkers in the digital economy. Universal broadband will also pave the way for next generation technologies such as 5G to be fully accessible to all New Yorkers.
"As the City continues to recover we must ensure that every New Yorker has fair, affordable access to broadband in order to continue remote learning, work and other everyday tasks. Providing more than 10,000 Bronx residents with high speed internet is key in making sure everyone is connected to the digital world and I am encouraged to see the Internet Master Plan bring affordable connectivity to New Yorkers who need it the most,” said U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres.
“The pandemic showed us that broadband access in the 21st century should not be viewed as a privilege for a select few that can afford it, but instead should be a universal right for all New Yorkers. For many of our historically underserved communities, the digital divide persists and is a constant obstacle to success. This new partnership with Bloc Power will ensure that thousands of NYCHA residents in the Bronx have equitable access to high-speed internet and is a step forward towards achieving universal broadband access for those that need it the most in our city,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson.
"Free broadband Internet for public housing has been a dream of mine for more than a decade and 10,000 residents at 5 NYCHA developments in the Bronx will be getting it for the next year," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Congratulations to Mayor de Blasio and CTO John Paul Farmer on getting this done for tens of thousands of public housing residents."
"One thing the last year and a half has taught us is that high-speed internet access is not a luxury but a necessity in our City," said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee. "This agreement makes affordable broadband Internet available to an additional 10,000 NYCHA tenants and brings us closer to making our City more equitable and accessible for all."