NYC Launches 'Big Apple Connect', the Nation's Largest Free Municipal Broadband Program, for NYCHA Residents

NYC Launches ‘Big Apple Connect’, the Nation’s Largest Free Municipal Broadband Program, for NYCHA Residents

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — New York City launched “Big Apple Connect” on Monday, bringing free high-speed Internet to NYCHA residents in what is the largest free municipal broadband program in the country.

Mayor Eric Adams and Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser announced the citywide launch after a successful pilot program.

The historic digital equity program will make free high-speed Internet and basic cable television available to approximately 300,000 New Yorkers living in more than 200 NYCHA developments by the end of 2023.

The program was initially piloted in eight public housing developments in all five boroughs, including at NYCHA’s Langston Hughes Houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where officials made the announcement.

It has now expanded to over 100 developments.

Since the pilot program debuted last month at Langston Hughes, more than 200 existing Optimum customers have automatically converted and 120 new subscribers have been added.

Nearly 350 Langston Hughes units, or about two-thirds of the homes in the development, are already enrolled in Big Apple Connect.

“A 21st century city like New York deserves 21st century infrastructure, and today we continue our quest to bridge the digital divide with the historic launch of Big Apple Connect,” said Adams. “For too long, low-income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color have been ignored when it comes to accessing critical digital tools to help them succeed.”

Big Apple Connect will provide residents of NYCHA developments with a free package consisting of a high-speed Internet connection in the home, including a modem and router; basic cable TV service, including cable box and remote control; and Wi-Fi hotspots in common areas, selected in consultation with NYCHA.

After soliciting proposals earlier this year from New York City cable television franchisees, the city entered into three-year agreements with Altice (Optimum) and Charter (Spectrum), which will collectively cover most of the developments that owned and operated by NYCHA. The city continues to negotiate with Verizon as a possible third franchisee. OTI will be billed directly to all residents enrolled in ‘Big Apple Connect’ during the three-year period.

“Broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that all New Yorkers should have access to,” said Adams. “That’s why by the end of next year, more than 200 NYCHA developments will have free high-speed Internet access and cable TV, giving approximately 300,000 New Yorkers access to essential tools to live productive lives. Something so simple like providing free access, accessible Wi-Fi can change a New Yorker’s life, and Big Apple Connect will connect our city to the future.”

NYCHA residents will not be charged for these services, and existing Optimum and Spectrum customers who live in NYCHA developments where Big Apple Connect is active will be automatically enrolled in the program and will only be billed for additional services who choose to buy direct.

Residents will receive email notifications and mailings explaining why their bills were reduced, as well as information on Big Apple Connect.

Residents without existing service will have the opportunity to enroll directly through Spectrum or Optimum or may attend on-site enrollment events hosted by the companies in partnership with the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation.

An estimated 30-40% of NYCHA residents lack broadband, based on cable service providers.

Once its implementation is complete, Big Apple Connect is projected to be the largest municipal program to cover the cost of Internet for public housing residents in the nation.

NYCHA residents enrolled in Big Apple Connect will also be able to use the federal Affordable Connectivity Program benefit to save money on their cell phone bills. The Affordable Connectivity Program offers a discount of up to $30 per month on Internet or mobile data service for eligible households and is limited to one monthly service discount per month.

In addition to Langston Hughes Houses in Brooklyn, the other pilot sites in all five boroughs included:

–Bronx: Mott Haven Homes

–Bronx: Patterson Houses

–Brooklyn: Brownsville Homes

–Manhattan: Polo Grounds Towers

–Queens: Queensbridge Houses

–Queens: Woodside Homes

–Staten Island: Stapleton Houses

Information about current and future eligible NYCHA sites will be available on OTI’s Big Apple Connect website.

READ ALSO | Why a New Jersey teacher has had an empty chair in his classroom for 52 years

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