Tech

New York City cuts free internet plan by 1.2 million people, drastically lowering ambitious target

New York City cuts free internet plan by 1.2 million

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On Monday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a new plan to provide free internet to as many as 300,000 New Yorkers in an effort to improve high-speed internet in the city’s social housing. Adams said the plan “could change a New Yorker’s life.”

But it covers fewer New Yorkers than an earlier version that Adams scrapped earlier this year.

The new plan, called Big Apple Connect, costs the city just under $30 per household per month, according to officials. Adams’s administration linked two of the city’s cable giants – Charter Communications and Altice – to the service, despite councilors’ concerns about lawsuits and audits against the companies for failing to deliver previously promised services.

Brett Sikoff, executive director of the city’s newly created Office of Technology and Innovation, told lawmakers on Monday said there was an “immediate need for services” and that using existing cable infrastructure and businesses would help “stop the bleeding.”

But the plan is disappointing compared to a 2020 plan introduced by then-mayor Bill de Blasio. The “Internet Master Plan” promised to use a mix of larger Internet companies and smaller providers to reach 1.5 million New Yorkers, far more than Adams’ estimated 300,000.

A pilot program for the de Blasio plan had 45,000 social housing residents connected to free city Wi-Fi. De Blasio has pledged $157 million in the summer of 2020 to the program, which would have funded low-cost internet access for 200,000 social housing residents by the end of the year.

But the Adams administration has let that money sit while they reevaluate the plan, Sikoff told lawmakers on Monday.

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New York City Council Technology Chair Jennifer Gutiérrez did not respond to a request for comment, but told: Gothamist that it is “unacceptable that” [the city] does not have a comprehensive roadmap to connect more New Yorkers to the Internet” and that while “respecting the challenges of re-evaluating a previous administration’s plan,” the city needs a robust roadmap to free or subsidized Internet.

The program is on a three-year contract and it is unclear what will happen to the new program once that ends.

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