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Mayor de Blasio, HUD Secretary Castro, and T-Mobile Announce 5,000 Families in Bronx Public Housing to Receive Free Tablets and Mobile Internet Service

December 16, 2016

Part of the Obama Administration’s ConnectHome initiative

$2 million in tablets and discounted mobile internet service provided by T-Mobile complement Wi-Fi networks under construction in public housing communities in all five boroughs and the New York Public Library’s Mi-Fi hot-spot loan initiative, advancing the City’s goal of achieving universal affordable internet access by 2025

NEW YORK––Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro today announced in partnership with T-Mobile that families living in public housing in the Bronx will receive 5,000 new tablet computers connected to T-Mobile’s high-speed data network. As part of this commitment, T-Mobile will also become a national stakeholder in the Obama Administration’s ConnectHome initiative. Beginning in January, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will distribute the tablets – valued at $159 each – to qualifying families with children under 19 years old..

“Increasing internet access across the city is not just a noble goal – it’s a necessary one. These days, the internet is virtually a requirement for people searching for jobs or students doing homework. We are thrilled to find one more way to boost access in the Bronx – and we’re thankful to our partners at T-Mobile and HUD for helping to make this happen,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“The ConnectHome program is providing children and families the tools they need to stay competitive in this 21st century global economy,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. “With this new commitment to ConnectHome, T-Mobile and the City of New York are making a meaningful impact to close the digital divide for thousands of New York public housing residents.”

“At T-Mobile, we believe high-speed internet access should be affordable for everyone. We’re proud to partner with NYC and HUD to bring unlimited mobile internet to so many deserving families for years to come,” said Mike Sievert, Chief Operating Officer of T-Mobile. “We’ve invested like crazy in our network, and that’s why T-Mobile has the fastest LTE network in NYC today. These families are getting blazing-fast mobile internet that works all over the city.”

This investment is part of the de Blasio Administration’s commitment to expanding internet access, which recognizes that high-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a critical service that must be affordable to all city residents. 

The tablets come preloaded with apps and links connecting users to City services and directories, including the award-winning MyNYCHA app, the 311 app, the New York Public Library’s SimplyE app, ACCESS NYC,,, and links to information on IDNYC and local computer centers. T-Mobile will provide free introductory training for recipients. In addition, the New York Public Library will expand digital literacy and mobile tablet training programs at nearby branches in the Bronx, which will help New Yorkers learn about computer and internet basics, social media, protecting online information and privacy, career development, coding, and more.

T-Mobile has committed $2 million in devices and discounted service for this initiative and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is overseeing and will be funding the two years of discounted high-speed mobile data for these tablets at a cost of $1.2 million. Eligible developments and the schedule for distribution events, including T-Mobile tablet trainings, will be announced in January 2017, when residents will be able to register for the tablets online or through a phone hotline. NYCHA will also distribute flyers to eligible residents prior to the opening of registration.

Nearly 26 percent of households in the Bronx have no internet at home and no mobile internet plan – well above the citywide rate of 19.8 percent. This commitment will bring affordable, high-speed internet access to more NYCHA households in the Bronx. The tablet distribution complements the Administration’s $10 million investment in building wireless networks that serve public housing residents in the Queensbridge, Red Hook and Mott Haven, Jefferson and Stapleton Houses communities, which the Mayor and Secretary announced last year. Free Wi-Fi service launched this week for the first section of the Queensbridge Houses.

"We are thrilled that this partnership with HUD and T-Mobile will allow 5000 New York families to get online," said Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño. "ConnectHome is helping drive forward the Mayor's commitment to universal broadband in public housing and for all New Yorkers."

“ConnectHome is another integral component in the City’s efforts to bring every New Yorker affordable high-speed internet access by 2025,” said Anne Roest, Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. “Keeping children connected is crucial for their education, and DoITT is incredibly proud to contribute to this public-private partnership. We thank our partners HUD, T-Mobile, NYCHA, and NYPL for their collaboration, and we are excited to be closely involved in ConnectHome’s planning and oversight.”

New York Housing Authority Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye said, “Expanding internet access is crucial to strengthening pathways to opportunity in the 21st century. Thanks to this partnership, we are bringing free, high-speed internet access to 5,000 families living in public housing in the Bronx. As we work to preserve public housing for generations to come, we are proud to participate in an initiative that will create more connected communities.” 

"The New York Public Library works every day to combat digital inequity, offering free programs, services, and classes to help the millions of New Yorkers who cannot afford internet at home or who need technology training," said New York Public Library President Tony Marx. "This partnership with T-Mobile and the City of New York is a new way that we can help address the digital divide, and we are proud to participate." 

Launched by President Obama in 2015, the ConnectHome Initiative is a national pilot program bringing internet service providers, non-profits and the public and private sectors together to offer high-speed internet access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in HUD-assisted housing. New York City is one of 28 communities nationwide participating in the ConnectHome pilot program.

"Too many kids lose access to the internet when the school day ends, limiting their ability to do research, complete homework assignments, and communicate with teachers and classmates,” said Jeff Zients, Director of the National Economic Council. “Through ConnectHome, local leaders and Internet Service Providers are doing great work in communities across the country to ensure that children and their families at all income levels have access to the opportunity internet provides."

According to a 2015 analysis by the Center for Economic Opportunity, 20 percent of New York City households do not have in-home internet service and 35 percent of households below the poverty line do not have any internet access at home, including via tablets or smartphones. Recent data on use of connected mobile devices by the Pew Research Center shows that one in five American adults rely on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, as their primary source for internet access, which in many cases is not sufficient for applying for jobs online or completing homework assignments, for example. According to Pew, half of this group has had to cancel or suspend their service because of financial constraints.

This commitment marks the latest action in the de Blasio administration's ongoing work to close the technology divide in New York City and make New York the most connected and equitable city in the world. In addition to installing Wi-Fi networks and expanding mobile internet access to public housing communities in all five boroughs, the Administration has committed $70 million for broadband infrastructure investments over the next 10 years. The Mayor recently announced the appointment of Miguel A. Gamiño Jr. as the City’s Chief Technology Officer to lead the City’s Broadband Program, building on previous high-level appointments.

As part of the City's commitment to expanding broadband access for all New Yorkers, the de Blasio Administration has implemented LinkNYC, the world's largest and fastest municipal Wi-Fi network; expanded the City's library hotspot program to lend Wi-Fi devices to families of public school students; and launched an initiative to deliver free broadband service to 21,000 NYCHA residents. All of these initiatives advance the City’s broader goal of achieving universal affordable high-speed internet access by 2025.

“Access to the internet is no longer a luxury, but an essential utility that families and children need to succeed professionally and academically, and to carry out basic daily chores. Unfortunately, the continued digital divide shows that for too many, this necessity is out of reach. This public-private initiative will help thousands of Bronx children and adolescents that have no internet at home to learn and to thrive by opening new horizons and filling an important gap in their skill set,” said Congressman Jose Serrano.

“In our connected world and globalized economy, it is imperative that families, and students in particular, are skilled in using technology and are connected to the Internet. This investment will not only help bridge the digital divide among families living in public housing, it will give them a necessary tool that can help with economic and career opportunities. When the federal government invests in public housing residents, it helps lift up families and communities,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Committee on Public Housing

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