Internet-compressed Photo: tlsmith1000/Flickr

One major goal of Mayor de Blasio’s sweeping OneNYC plan is to bring universal broadband to New York City by 2025. The City is making initial strides with a $10 million initiative to bring free internet to over 16,000 New Yorkers living in public housing.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) program is being fully funded and built out by the City in public housing developments across all five boroughs. But logistical challenges mean progress toward high-speed internet cannot be, well, high-speed.

Back in July 2015, Mayor de Blasio announced the plan in partnership with the Department of Information Technology, in conjunction with President Obama’s announcement of ConnectHome, a federal initiative to give more Americans broadband access. New York City will start with wireless access for the 7,000 residents of NYCHA’s Queensbridge North and Queensbridge South Houses, which comprise the largest housing development in the US.

Although this wave will not utilize federal funding, it does expand on Housing and Urban Development grant programs covering broadband access and adoption.

To date, lines have yet to be laid, though the Queensbridge North and South Houses and Red Hook East and West Houses are in the procurement phase, as officials sort out vendors, supplies and labor. Service should begin at Queensbridge, Red Hook and Mott Haven this year, with completion of construction and full coverage in place in 2017. Procurement is scheduled to begin for Jefferson Houses and Stapleton Houses this year and service will begin later in 2017.

In a statement to BuzzBuzzHome News, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office said that the project is addressing its obstacles. “This is a first-of-its-kind undertaking for the City to deliver residential broadband service and the Queensbridge Houses, the initial location, is the largest public housing development in North America.”

Delivering broadband service means running new fiber optic lines through the streets of Queens and within the NYCHA property, connecting all 26 buildings that make up the development. The City must then install over a thousand Wi-Fi access points to serve all of the residents.

Broadband construction at NYCHA also coordinates with other capital projects. At Queensbridge, that means roof replacement. Red Hook will see new resilience measures, including flood protection and sustained public access to waterfront.

The City hopes that these initial NYCHA broadband projects will inform future strategy toward achieving their larger OneNYC goal.

Mayor de Blasio says that access to information technology is a key strategy to fight inequality. “The digital divide creates a fundamental difference between those who have access to economic and educational opportunities and those who do not…We are committed to using every tool we have to meet this goal.”

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