More Free Internet Services for NYCHA Residents
By Gregg McQueen
Optimum service, free of charge.
City officials have announced that by the end of 2023, some 300,000 residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments will have free access to high-speed Internet and basic services cable television.
The “Big Apple Connect” program was initially piloted in eight NYCHA developments across the city and has now expanded to 100 sites, said Mayor Eric Adams, making it the city’s largest free broadband program from the country.
At a press conference on Sept. 19 at Langston Hughes Houses in Brooklyn, one of the Big Apple Connect pilot sites, Adams noted that public housing residents have suffered from a lack of broadband Internet access.
“Internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity like electricity and gas,” Adams said. “We saw during the Covid pandemic, the absence of internet service, that our young people could not do their learning remotely. We saw that our elders could not do telemedicine.”
“For too long, NYCHA residents have been offline while the rest of the city has been online,” he said.
The expanded program will provide NYCHA residents with a free package consisting of a high-speed Internet connection with a modem and router, basic cable TV service with a cable box and remote control, and Wi-Fi hotspots at the common areas of their buildings.
By the end of 2023, more than 200 NYCHA developments will have free Internet and cable TV access, Adams said.
Eligible individuals living in NYCHA developments will be automatically enrolled in the program and will only be billed for additional services they choose to purchase directly.
Chief Technology Officer Matt Fraser said the free Internet program will increase fairness for city residents.
“What we’re talking about here today is not just about free Wi-Fi. It’s about economic development, it’s about public health, it’s about safety, and it’s about getting a fair shot like anyone else who has money,” Fraser said. “And in public housing, for too long, it has taken a backseat to others, simply because it didn’t have access to resources.”
In addition to the Langston Hughes Houses, other pilot sites include the Mott Haven Houses and Patterson Houses in the Bronx, and the Polo Grounds Towers in Harlem.
The city has signed three-year agreements with Optimum and Spectrum to provide the service, officials said, and is in talks with Verizon as a possible third provider.
Fraser said the overall cost of the program will depend on the scope of development, but noted that the city will pay $30 per unit per month to provide services to NYCHA residents for free.
Ciprian Noel, president of the Langston Hughes Houses Tenants Association, said the free Internet program helps him connect with his two sons who attend college outside of New York, and also cuts down on his expenses.
“I have two children in college. I am a single father. I have only one income in my household,” Noel said.
“This is a bill, which marks $0.00 dollars,” he said, brandishing his monthly Internet bill at the press conference. “This program is very good.”
Housing Director Jessica Katz referred to NYCHA as “the largest and largest resource for affordable housing” in New York City.
“For decades, we have let it fall apart. So, little by little, we’ve been working very hard to get things for NYCHA and try to rebuild trust with NYCHA residents and physically rebuild the buildings themselves, as well as the connectivity between NYCHA residents and the rest of the city. from New York,” he said. “Today is a really important step towards that.”