City Announces Major Next Steps to Close the Digital Divide

March 3, 2021

NEW YORK— Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced next steps on the City's efforts to achieve affordable and universal broadband. With a historic $157 million capital investment, the City is releasing a Request for Proposals that invites the telecommunications industry to create new affordable broadband service options through a first-ever coordinated system of access of up to 100,000 City assets, prioritizing areas identified by the Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity. The Mayor also announced the City will accelerate the buildout of 5G by making an unprecedented 7,500 City street poles available for mobile carriers to build out their networks, mainly in underserved areas. Combined, these initiatives will reach millions of New Yorkers across all five boroughs, expanding access to quality, high-speed, and reliable internet at home or on the go.

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

"Over the past year, we worked closely with our partners in the telecom industry and we are now poised to make New York City a leader in 5G technology," said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner and Citywide Chief Information Officer Jessica Tisch. "The 5G networks we are building out across all five boroughs will serve as an engine of economic growth and recovery for years to come."

"The digital divide affects how New Yorkers live, work, go to school, and connect with their communities," said Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin. "We applaud the multi-agency effort to change the playing field to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of where they live, have access to quality, high-speed, affordable internet service."

"Internet connectivity is a means to address inequity, combat digital redlining, and create new economic opportunities for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have been historically sidelined from the benefits of digital life," said J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives and co-chair of the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity. "These initiatives will bring 21st century life to underserved and low-income neighborhoods and it will provide Internet connection in a way that protects user privacy, ensures affordable rates, and delivers reliable access."

"High-speed internet facilitates online learning, career advancement, and increased employment opportunities. It is a requirement to fully participate in today's economy," said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. "Building out access to the Internet democratizes a critical economic development tool, especially by providing our public housing residents the same opportunities as other New York City residents and is an important milestone in our fair recovery agenda."

Pole-Top Reservation Plan for 5G

To make New York City a leader in municipal 5G deployments, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) will make 7,500 street poles available to mobile telecommunications franchisees through the City's new online reservation portal, which streamlines the process. About 1,500 poles will be released each quarter over the next 15 months, with the first reservation phase starting this month.

This doubles the number of City street poles currently reserved and will ensure that 5G is built out equitably by making 75 percent of the poles available in the outer boroughs or above 96th Street in Manhattan. This strategic approach will make sure that historically underserved and under-connected neighborhoods can benefit from 5G and its promise of broadband-like speeds for cellular data connections.

Wireless companies that hold one of twelve mobile telecommunications franchise agreements with DoITT will install and operate mobile equipment on City-owned light poles and privately-owned utility poles. The 5G equipment can be housed and concealed in a box that also supports 4G equipment. The Public Design Commission has approved a uniform single-tenant design, which represents an unprecedented collaboration between the City and the mobile telecommunications industry and takes the public's input into account. Additionally, after an extensive review, the Department of Buildings will issue guidance to clarify standards for siting and placement of antennas on buildings.

State Legislation

These efforts to bridge the digital divide will be accelerated through the enactment of legislation (S. 3141 Parker) which will level the internet service provider playing field and increase competition to lower prices. The City currently administers franchises for providers of cable companies that provide internet service but is prevented by state law from similarly engaging broadband-only companies.

Providing the City with the authority to issue franchises to a broader set of companies, not just cable internet franchisees, will increase consumer choice and drive down prices of in-home broadband, enabling more lower-income households to subscribe. With this legislation, New York City can improve upon important consumer protections to advance high-quality service standards and safeguard the rights of consumers.

Read the full release from the Mayor's office.

About the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT)
DoITT is the technology core of New York City government, working with over 100 city agencies and entities to deliver the tech they need to serve and empower New Yorkers. DoITT's technology solutions help keep the five boroughs safe, strong, and vibrant. For more information, visit or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.