FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 03, 2021
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NEW YORK – Today, NYCHA celebrated one of the first major expansions of free and low-cost internet service options outlined under the City’s Internet Master Plan for Universal Broadband, with a back-to-school giveaway and bill-cutting event at Atlantic Terminal Houses. Released in January 2020, the Internet Master Plan for Universal Broadband was rapidly developed to identify ways of leveraging NYCHA’s public assets and infrastructure to increase the footprint for universal broadband in communities that were especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starry Internet – one of six broadband service providers who executed a license agreement with NYCHA – completed the installation of in-unit internet service at the Atlantic Terminal campus in Brooklyn; the Eugenia de Maria Hostos campus in Manhattan and the 272 Wyckoff Avenue building at Wyckoff Gardens. The two remaining buildings at the Wyckoff Gardens community are in design and expected to be connected in the coming months. When construction is complete, Starry will be available to more than 1,048 units of NYCHA housing across all three communities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the challenges that inadequate internet service pose to the children and families,” said NYCHA EVP for Community Engagement and Partnerships Sideya Sherman and Executive Director, Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity. “The Authority is committed to establishing public-private partnerships capable of fostering digital equity and levelling the playing field at a time when access to affordable broadband is essential to a child’s educational success.”
“Today marks the culmination of a vision outlined by NYCHA, the City, and our partners to reshape the Authority’s aging infrastructure to meet the technology needs of our residents,” said Eva Trimble, New York City Housing Authority Executive Vice President for Strategy & Innovation. “NYCHA’s work expanding low-cost internet service options is just beginning and we hope to significantly increase the footprint for universal broadband access in the future.”
"Broadband is as essential in the 21st century as electricity was in the 20th," said John Paul Farmer, Chief Technology Officer of New York City. "That's why New York City developed its groundbreaking Internet Master Plan to close the longstanding digital divide. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the City has accelerated implementation to ensure that everyone can learn, gain new skills, apply for jobs, and access healthcare no matter their ZIP Code or the size of their paycheck. Nowhere is the need for low-cost connectivity more pressing than in our NYCHA communities. We are proud that through this innovative partnership with Starry the City is helping thousands of New Yorkers gain affordable broadband that promises to transform their lives and those of their families." “Starry has always been grounded in a deep conviction that broadband connectivity is essential for daily life, and if we make it affordable and universally available, that good things can and will happen in communities,” said Chet Kanojia, Co-Founder and CEO of Starry. “We’re proud to partner with NYCHA, the City of New York and Microsoft to bring Starry’s Connect program to these three communities. Every New Yorker deserves access to reliable, affordable broadband and Starry is happy to do its part to help close the digital gap for NYCHA residents.”
“Congratulations to Starry and NYCHA on what I hope will be just the beginning of a partnership that will provide universal broadband to New Yorkers who need it most," said New York City Councilman and Council Technology Committee Chair Robert Holden. "It’s more clear than ever that broadband is a necessity for many aspects of life."
The completion marks a significant milestone in the city’s efforts to meaningfully close the digital divide by bringing new service options to public housing communities across New York City, where more than 1.5 million people do not have access to mobile or broadband internet access at home. The lack of reliable, affordable, and accessible internet service was underscored by the COVID pandemic, when more household members were likely to either share devices or rely on slower connections via Wi-Fi hot spots or cellular-only data plans. In 2018, a report by the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology (MOCTO) found that 14 percent of households citywide had only one internet service provider available within a block of their home.
This past May, Congress appropriated $3.2 billion to the Federal Communications Commission to help low-income households pay for their broadband service through the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which provides up to $50 per month for broadband access to eligible households. For residents that sign up for Starry’s service and opt-into the EBB program, that benefit will cover the entire cost of broadband service for the household while the program remains in effect.
To expand the broadband market and increase access to choice for public housing residents, NYCHA worked closely with MOCTO and NYCEDC to develop an RFEI in May 2020 designed to solicit ready-to-deploy ideas capable of providing residents at designated NYCHA developments with free and/or reduced cost internet connections.
To date, the internet service provider NYC Mesh has launched free, common-area WiFi at the 303 Vernon Avenue NYCHA campus while Flume has launched low-cost, in-unit options at Wald. (Residents at Wald can apply EBB towards Flume service as well). In the coming months, additional developments across New York City will see similar affordable broadband options fully deployed by additional vendors, including Silicon Harlem, SkyPackets, and BlocPower.