DoITT Announces Call for Mobile Telecommunications Expansion in New York City

Request for Proposals Issued for New Generation of City Franchisees to Equitably Expand 5G Coverage Throughout the 5 Boroughs

BROOKLYN—The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications today released a request for proposals (RFP) from firms who wish to expand wireless connectivity across the five boroughs. Awardees will become franchisees of the City, granted the right to install technology on City-owned light poles and utility poles in order to provide wider coverage and better service to the millions of New Yorkers who rely on mobile service each day.

“The City of New York has pledged to make access to technology a right—and not a privilege—for New Yorkers in every corner of every borough, as we work towards Mayor de Blasio’s goal to deliver high-quality, affordable broadband to all New Yorkers by 2025,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin. “This solicitation for mobile service providers puts that pledge into action, while also ensuring that New York City stays at the forefront of the 5G expansion that will power the 21st century city.”

“Today, mobile service is indispensable to millions of New Yorkers, who depend on it for work, education, and communication,” said Samir Saini, Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. “This RFP takes innovative and important steps to deliver the best, fastest service to as many New Yorkers as possible, helping New York City become the fairest and the most tech-friendly city in the world.”

“This franchise has been the foundation of a fruitful partnership with the wireless industry to enable mobile service in all parts of the city,” said Joshua Breitbart, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, NYC Connected, Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer. “The expansive vision in this RFP is part of our call to private partners to do more to meet the Mayor’s goal of affordable, reliable broadband service for all New Yorkers.”

“NYC DOT supports the expansion of mobile service across the five boroughs and in previously underserved areas,” said NYC Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner for Traffic Operations Joshua Benson. “We are contributing to these efforts by making our traffic signal poles and light poles available to serve a dual purpose of supporting mobile service while maintaining their primary safety functions.”

For more than a decade, the City of New York has managed the deployment of wireless technology on the city’s light poles. This effort has resulted in nearly 9,000 poles reserved by franchisees throughout the five boroughs, which are (or will soon be) outfitted with equipment that can connect wireless phone owners to a 3G, 4G, or LTE wireless signal on a mobile device. These installations ensure state-of-the-art service from providers while also serving to facilitate the introduction of emerging technologies.

Demand for poles has historically been highest in Manhattan below 96th street. As a result, in November 2017, DoITT re-focused franchisee pole reservations to underserved areas across the 5 boroughs. This effort yielded, for the first time ever, more poles reserved outside of the city’s central business district than within it—better meeting the need for technology access in all of our communities.

This RFP builds upon successes to date, but also introduces installations in some of the other street furniture around the City. Under the provisions of this RFP, LinkNYC kiosks may become eligible sites for mobile telecom franchisees to place their wireless installations. The more than 1,600 active LinkNYC kiosks deliver superfast free Wi-Fi across the five boroughs and have already seen upwards of 4 million subscribers use its free Wi-Fi service. DoITT also encourages RFP responders to propose ideas for neutral host installations, allowing multiple providers to offer service on the same pole and making wireless service more resilient.

This Mobile Telecommunication Franchise RFP is part of a broader process being undertaken by the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO) with DoITT to maximize use of its relatively scarce infrastructure to serve all New Yorkers equitably. The RFP reserves the City’s authority to issue new solicitations in the future to further advance the goal of universal broadband.

“As a member of the Franchise and Concession Review Committee, it has been important for me to ensure we are maximizing the utility of our municipal resources to benefit as many underserved New Yorkers as possible. In that spirit, I support the City's effort to expand wireless connectivity through technology on our light poles and utility poles, and I hope this RFP will result in robust proposals that help us meaningfully close the digital divide,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“This expansion of mobile telecommunications shows that the City of New York is serious about expanding wireless networks across the five boroughs. As new infrastructure like LinkNYC continues to come online outside Manhattan, we must seek new ways to increase Wi-Fi access by optimizing this and other infrastructure throughout the city. Thank you to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer for working on this worthy goal to increase broadband accessibility in underserved areas,” said Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Committee on Technology.

“The Internet is a tremendous equalizer, providing the opportunity for people without the same resources or privilege to empower and educate themselves. Expanding access to high-speed, reliable WiFi is a fantastic service and one that promotes equality. I look forward to seeing what creative and innovative proposals emerge,” said Council Member Francisco Moya, Chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.

“Ensuring that New Yorkers have access to the best possible cell phone service begins with having the right technical infrastructure,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “By working to expand wireless connectivity across the five boroughs with this RFP, the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications will keep New York City ahead of the curve. It is the smart thing to do with 5G coming, to ensure the expanding technology reaches New Yorkers rapidly and equitably.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “Fair and comprehensive access to wireless services in 2018 is a right, not a privilege. Our city must take every effort necessary to remain in lock step with emerging technology, and these poles are a step in the right direction.  Thank you to the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications for making our infrastructure more equitable.”

“The plans for expansion of 5G coverage throughout the boroughs shows that the city is serious about improving the telecommunications infrastructure of our neighborhoods and communities. With these changes, hopefully we can bring the information age to all corners of New York City, even the often forgotten borough of Staten Island,” said Assemblyman Matthew Titone.

“Wireless connectivity is essential to the economic development of our community and should be part of a broader strategy for reducing the connectivity gap between low-income and high-income Brooklynites, as well as other New Yorkers. Additionally, the 60 million tourists who visit New York City every year rely on wireless devices to connect while traveling.  We thank the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, as well as the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, for recognizing the importance of this issue to our borough and the city,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Acting President Rick Russo.

“Expanding wireless technology and high-speed internet access throughout the five boroughs is a positive step forward to asserting New York’s capabilities as a truly 21st-century hub for business,” said Jessica Walker, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “In this day and age, high-speed internet is essential to growing a successful business, and we’re encouraged by the City’s work with mobile telecom providers to provide resilient, successful broadband service.”

The RFP can be downloaded at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/doitt/business/mobile-telecommunications-franchises.page.

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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 nyc.gov/DoITT or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.