The city will expand broadband internet access to another 600,000 New Yorkers as a part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to speed up an existing "Internet Master Plan" and close the digital divide in low-income communities of color.
The plan would invest $157 million—including $87 million from the NYPD's budget—towards extending internet service to the more than half-a-million residents without adequate internet service under the city budget passed in June. The total includes some 200,000 public housing residents.
They'll get internet service for $15 a month over the course of the next 1.5 years, de Blasio announced. The city said it would work with minority- and women-owned businesses to train people to install and operate the broadband infrastructure to create jobs in local communities. Neighborhoods included Brownsville and East New York would be targeted for expanded internet access.
"It's another tale of two cities. It has been for a long time," he said during Tuesday's virtual press briefing. "On a city level, we're going to take resources that came out of the NYPD's capital budget and put it into broadband access for residents of public housing, low-income New Yorkers who need that access—particularly young people who need that access."
In January, the administration announced a master plan to expand universal broadband coverage to about 1.5 million New Yorkers who don't have internet access at home or on their phones. The plan did not set a deadline for universal access, but Tuesday's announcement accelerates that plan after de Blasio's racial equity task force was convened to speed up addressing racial disparities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
The first phase is underway with calls for companies who are interested in submitting proposals. Those partnerships will be announced at the end of the summer, City Hall announced.
About 40 percent of NYC residents only have internet access on their phones or at home, not both.
When New York went on "PAUSE" under stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands in NYC lost work, those who kept their jobs switched to working from home, and 1.1 million public school students switched from in-person classes to remote learning in just days.
"COVID-19 has exacerbated the digital divide that we already knew existed," New York Urban League's CEO Arva Rice said during de Blasio's briefing. "The divide was keeping our 1.1 million public school children from being able to complete schoolwork that went from in-classroom to 100 percent virtual studies over the course of a weekend. The digital divide kept families from being able to look for employment options and complete job applications."
The city is also pushing for new state legislation to force internet companies to pay the City of New York for using its streets for infrastructure, calling the companies' tactics "inappropriate" and "unfair."
"They're profiting, but they're not paying their fair share," de Blasio said.