Technology & Public Service Innovation:
Broadband Access

In New York City, broadband service is almost universally available - residential coverage stands at virtually 100 percent, and business access is pervasive. In this respect, New York is well ahead of many other American cities. However, as with every other major American city, a digital divide exists in terms of broadband adoption. This divide is especially pronounced with respect to lower-income residents and seniors. DoITT leads New York City in implementing several programs to address the interrelated aspects of the broadband adoption "gap".

Public-Private Partnerships
Partnerships between the City and individuals, non-profits, and the public and private sectors have created opportunities for innovative public services.  The scale and scope of these collaborations are changing New York City’s technology landscape – bringing WiFi to nearly a hundred blocks of Harlem, creating computer centers, and expanding digital access across the five boroughs. By leveraging government expertise and private-sector support, these partnerships allow the city to bring benefits to residents at little or no cost to taxpayers.  As part of this public-private partnership model, DoITT strives to maximize benefits to the public when establishing franchise agreements. Learn more about telecommunications franchises and associated public technology benefits.

Current initiatives include:

  • Parks WiFi: NYC Parks WiFi service is provided in more than 50 locations across the five boroughs. Access is available on a free and limited free basis. View a map of Parks WiFi locations.
  • Harlem WiFi: The Harlem WiFi Network, scheduled for completion in spring 2014, will be the largest continuous public outdoor WiFi network in New York City, covering over 95 city blocks. The free public network is funded through a generous donation from the Fuhrman Family Foundation to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and will serve approximately 80,000 Harlem residents, as well as visitors and businesses. Learn more about the Harlem WiFi project
  • LinkNYC: Using existing payphone infrastructure, the City of New York has teamed up with CityBridge, a consortium of best-in-class experts in technology, advertising, connectivity and user experience to create a first-of-its-kind communications network that will bring the fastest available municipal Wi-Fi to millions of New Yorkers, small businesses, and visitors. The five-borough LinkNYC network, which will be funded through advertising revenues, will be built at no cost to taxpayers and will generate more than $500 million in revenue for the City over the first 12 years. By replacing the aging network of public pay telephones with state-of-the-art Links, the City aims to transform the physical streetscape—and New Yorkers’ access to information—while also creating new local jobs for the development, servicing and maintenance of the structures. Learn more about LinkNYC.
  • NYC Connected Communities: Expands the availability of public computer centers and classes in libraries, public housing facilities, senior centers, and community centers in the city’s highest poverty neighborhoods. Additionally, the program offers an array of new resources for digital literacy, employment support, and other critical services. The program’s 100 centers, with 1,738 workstations, have provided more than 3 million user sessions to date through the following programs:
    • NYCHA Digital Vans are equipped with laptops, WiFi access, and printers. They travel around the City, providing New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents and community members with access to the internet to search for job opportunities, touch-up their resumes, and much more. Learn more about the NYCHA Digital Van program.
    • NYCHA Community Centers offer internet access, computers, printing, and classes at select locations across New York City.
    • Senior Centers offer computers and internet access to seniors looking to learn new computer skills, manage health with online resources, and connect with old friends and family through the internet. Learn more about senior center computer classes.
    • Parks and Recreation Centers: Computer Resource Centers (CRCs) provide computers and classes that give New Yorkers digital tools and guidance. Learn more about Parks computer classes.
    • Libraries: select locations have computers, internet access, laptops and classes ranging from basic office software to navigating social networking.
  • Community Technology Centers: As part of its franchise contract renewal with the City, Time Warner Cable is funding internet-ready public computer centers in partnership with local non-profit organizations. 40 centers will be created by 2020. These centers will provide free broadband access to underserved populations in Time Warner Cable's service footprint. View a list of the TWC Learning Labs constructed to date.

Stimulus Programs
A key feature of DoITT's broadband strategy has been working to secure stimulus funds for the benefit of New York City residents, businesses, and visitors.

In 2010, DoITT secured Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding from the federal government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The BTOP program provided resources to expand broadband access and use across the U.S. in underserved communities. DoITT used the BTOP funding to benefit over 3 million New Yorkers through three main initiatives: NYC Connected Communities, NYC Connected Learning , and NYC Connected Foundations.  

Ongoing Programs:

  • NYC Connected Communities: In 2013, the City announced funding to continue the NYC Connected Communities program, expanding public computer centers in high poverty areas and investing in libraries, public housing facilities, senior centers, and community centers across the five boroughs. 

Completed Stimulus Programs:

  • NYC Connected Learning served more than 23,000 low-income sixth grade students and 50,000 public school household members from 75 schools with free computers, discounted broadband service, high-quality digital educational resources, and digital literacy training to boost broadband adoption and educational outcomes between 2010 and 2013. 
  • NYC Connected Foundations provided 5,160 high school students who were disengaged from school and not on track to graduate with free computers, comprehensive digital literacy training, and access to discounted broadband service. Through a new, credit-bearing "Connected Foundations" course (also known as "DIG/IT"), the program facilitated sustainable adoption of broadband, and aided students in the transition to a post-secondary pathway at 66 public high schools.