Five Internet companies have been selected to provide service to 13 of New York City's housing developments (NYCHA), including Starry, Sky Packets, Silicon Harlem, Flume and NYC Mesh.
The program marks the first phase of NYC's $157 million Internet Master Plan for Universal Broadband, enacted and announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2020, with a goal of connecting 600,000 New Yorkers, including 200,000 NYCHA residents, this year. Overall, the plan intends to create a path to universal broadband across the city.
The five providers were chosen through a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) from the city issued last year. They are now tasked with delivering high-speed Internet for up to 30,000 NYCHA residents. While three of the 13 NYCHA developments will receive free Wi-Fi on public grounds, the remaining 10 will be wired for affordable access of up to $20 per month.
Through its RFEI, the city had sought "ready-to-deploy ideas or pilot projects," including "new products and pricing, new service choices with discounted rates for public housing residents, free Wi-Fi solutions that residents can reach from their homes, or other innovative approaches employing established or emerging technologies."
As a result, the mix of providers includes those taking unique approaches, like NYC Mesh, a volunteer-run, donation-dependent Wi-Fi mesh network; and Flume, which builds and installs optical edge technology, leveraging dark fiber in partnership with cities and utilities.
It also includes fixed wireless provider Starry, which has been providing low-cost broadband to families in public and affordable housing communities through Starry Connect.
"We're excited to bring our digital equity program, Starry Connect, to NYCHA and provide an ultra-low-cost broadband choice for residents, without credit checks or other eligibility strings attached," said Virginia Lam Abrams, head of government affairs and strategic advancement for Starry, in a press release.
NYC CTO John Paul Farmer added that the city will "continue to facilitate partnerships with internet service providers that share the goal of affordable, high-speed internet for all New Yorkers."
To that end, New York issued a request for proposals (RFP) in March 2021 in which it said it was seeking "proposals from internet service providers, broadband infrastructure developers, contractors, manufacturers, and asset managers, and other internet connectivity companies and/or industrial developers with a strong track record of successful deployment in New York City, or other major metropolitan centers, to develop and manage new fiber optic broadband on behalf of the City of New York and to enable new broadband internet service."
Respondents were invited to create broadband service options using a coordinated system of access to more than 100,000 public assets in NYC, "providing a first ever one-stop shop for respondents to work with the City of New York in delivering broadband to residents." Submissions closed on April 27.
In order to participate, the Master Plan mandates that respondents adhere to five principals: equity, affordability, privacy, performance and choice.
The NYC Master Plan estimates that 46% of New York's households living in poverty lack broadband at home; nearly one-third of all city residents don't have a home broadband connection; and 18% of all residents (more than 1.5 million people) lack both home and mobile broadband.
Meanwhile, the New York State legislature recently passed a law requiring ISPs to offer a $15 monthly option for residents in poverty; however, a group of telecom companies, including Verizon and AT&T, are suing the state in response.
— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor and host of "The Divide" and "What's the Story?" Light Reading
Cover image source: Gage Skidmore on Flickr.