mobile phone user in NYC (Alessandro Colle/Shutterstock.com)

NYC charts its path to universal broadband

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has a bold vision to ensure all city residents have access to affordable broadband internet service.

The New York City Internet Master Plan, announced Jan. 7, lays out a roadmap for broadband infrastructure and service delivery in which the city partners with private-sector internet service providers to offer affordable broadband to all city residents and close the digital divide.

With 18% of New York City households – more than 1.5 million New Yorkers -- lacking access to either home or mobile broadband, de Blasio said the city intends to provide "equitable broadband service to all New Yorkers regardless of where they live or how much they make … to ensuring everyone has the basic tools they need to succeed."

The 88-page master plan provides a framework for urban and business planning with six distinct elements -- real estate, infrastructure, wireless spectrum, equipment, operations and services -- and details  the responsibilities and contributions of the partners.

The plan calls for build out of an open access fiber-optic infrastructure to nearly every street intersection and an aggregation point in every neighborhood. The city plans to leverage its real estate assets -- fiber pathways, poles, rooftops and rooms -- along with public rights-of-way to ensure network operators can "deliver service using any of a number of potential technologies."

The fiber network "will be overlaid with a neutral radio access network capable of providing mobile wireless service throughout every neighborhood," including no-cost high-speed Wi-Fi in pedestrian corridors and public spaces, the plan says.

The city government will increase coordination among permitting entities, leverage its real estate and build fiber-optic lines to connect city assets. It also plans to prioritize development in underserved areas -- those with low levels of commercial fiber service and where residents are most dependent on mobile service.

“The Internet Master Plan is a brand new approach to breaking down the barriers to internet adoption in a city as large and as densely populated as New York City,” NYC CTO John Paul Farmer said at the plan's announcement. “No New Yorker should be without affordable access to this critical 21st century technology. Now is the time for the private sector to get serious about working with the City to bring connectivity to all New Yorkers. No other city in the nation has introduced such a clear, strategic, and partner-focused roadmap to universal broadband.”

The city expects to release a Universal Solicitation for Broadband (USB) for public infrastructure to address neighborhood-level connectivity needs. It initially plans to connect city assets with fiber optics, but is open to other solutions.

The benefits of the program are expected to be widespread. Based on the city’s analysis of the economic impact of universal broadband, getting all residents connected and establishing equitable infrastructure citywide may result in up to 165,000 new jobs, a $49 billion increase in personal income and $142 billion in incremental gross city product in 2045, officials said.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.

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