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New York City's CTO Matthew Fraser has announced the citywide launch of ‘Big Apple Connect’ — a landmark digital equity programme that will provides free high-speed internet to 300,000 New Yorkers living in social housing.
The programme was initially piloted at eight public housing developments across the five boroughs that comprise New York City, and has now been expanded to more than 100 New York City Housing Authority developments.
"Big Apple Connect’ is a game-changer for today’s New Yorkers living in public housing on par with the advent of utilities like heat or hot water," said CTO and Office of Technology and Innovation Commissioner Matthew Fraser. "This citywide broadband initiative ensures that New Yorkers need not defer their dreams — or fail to meet basic needs — because they lack the resources to pay for internet or live in a pre-war building. ‘Big Apple Connect’ stands as a testament to New York City’s national leadership in promoting digital equity."
Big Apple Connect will provide residents of NYCHA developments a free bundle that consists of in-home, high-speed internet connection, including a modem and router; basic cable TV service, including a cable box and remote control; and common area Wi-Fi hotspots, selected in consultation with NYCHA.
“From schoolwork to employment, telehealth, and social services, New Yorkers rely on access to the internet in invaluable ways every day,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, an elected advisory role to the New York City government. “Far too many NYCHA residents, however, face tremendous barriers to high-speed, reliable internet and lose out on these benefits. Internet today is an essential resource, and inequities in access translate into inequities in everything from health care to education, to job opportunities, support services, and beyond."
An estimated 30 to 40 percent of NYCHA residents lack broadband, according to cable service providers. Once its rollout is complete, ‘Big Apple Connect’ is projected to be the largest municipal programme to cover the cost of internet for public housing residents in the United States.
“The pandemic has amplified our city's need for digital connectivity,” said New York City Council member Julie Won. “Big Apple Connect brings us one step closer to treating Wi-Fi as a utility instead of a luxury.”
The Office of Technology and Innovation will be billed directly for all residents enrolled in ‘Big Apple Connect’ for the three-year term.