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Free High-Speed Internet Coming to Five Public Housing Developments

By Jeff Mays | July 16, 2015 5:56pm
 The Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City will be the first to receive free high-speed Internet under a city plan.
The Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City will be the first to receive free high-speed Internet under a city plan.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

THE BRONX — Five public housing developments in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens will receive free high-speed Internet service under a $10 million pilot project, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

The 7,000 residents of Queensbridge Houses will be the first to receive the free service, which is funded by the Office of the Mayor’s Counsel, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and the New York City Housing Authority.

The 6,500 residents of Red Hook East Houses and Red Hook West Houses in Brooklyn and the 2,500 residents of Mott Haven Houses in the South Bronx are next in line.

"In this city where we deal with inequality in so many forms, one in five households has no Internet access," de Blasio said at the Mott Haven Houses in The Bronx, where he announced the initiative. "No Internet access at all — talk about a tale of two cities."

For low-income New Yorkers, limited Internet means less access to help for kids to do their homework or for adults to search for job or educational opportunities.

A study by the Center for Economic Opportunity found that 36 percent of city households below the poverty line do not have home Internet access.

NYCHA Chairwoman and CEO Shola Olatoye said half of all NYCHA households have Internet access in their homes and many have access via a mobile device. Data from the Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of all people with limited or no Internet access at home have had to suspend or cancel mobile phone service at some point due to financial concerns.

The service will have speeds of 25 megabits per second and residents who want higher speeds will be able to pay for it. There will be no restrictions on which sites residents can visit.

The city's program will work in conjunction with ConnectHome, a White House initiative that plans to provide home Internet access to 275,000 low income households in seven cities and one tribal nation via a public-private partnership.

In New York City, Sprint will provide mobile Wi-Fi devices to 15,000 NYCHA households in The Bronx with a total of 28,000 K-12 students.

The city also has several other efforts to help it reach its goal of universal affordable high-speed Internet access by 2025.

Pay phones are being replaced with an ad-supported, free Wi-Fi network, to create the world's largest and fastest Wi-Fi network, and the city also plans to lend more mobile Wi-Fi devices to New Yorkers through the public library system.