NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — New York City launched “Big Apple Connect” on Monday, offering NYCHA residents free high-speed internet as part of the nation’s largest free municipal broadband program.
Mayor Eric Adams and Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser announced the citywide launch after a successful pilot program.
The pioneering digital equity program will provide free high-speed Internet and basic cable television 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 the five boroughs, including NYCHA’s Langston Hughes Houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where officials made the announcement.
It has now been expanded to over 100 developments.
Since the pilot debuted at Langston Hughes last month, Optimum has automatically converted more than 200 existing customers and added 120 new subscribers.
Nearly 350 Langston Hughes units — or about two-thirds of the homes in development — are already registered with 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 landmark 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 the critical digital tools that help them thrive.”
Big Apple Connect will provide NYCHA Developments residents with a complimentary package consisting of a high-speed home Internet connection, including a modem and router; basic cable television service, including cable box and remote control; and WiFi hotspots in public areas selected in consultation with NYCHA.
After soliciting bids from existing cable television franchisees in New York City earlier this year, the city entered into three-year agreements with Altice (Optimum) and Charter (Spectrum), which together will cover the majority of NYCHA-owned and NYCHA-managed developments . The city is continuing negotiations with Verizon as a possible third franchisee. OTI will be billed directly to all residents enrolled in Big Apple Connect for the three-year term.
“Broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity that all New Yorkers should have access to,” Adams said. “Therefore, by the end of next year, more than 200 NYCHA developments will have access to free high-speed Internet and cable television, giving approximately 300,000 New Yorkers access to the essential tools to live productive lives. Something as simple as free deployment, accessible WiFi can transform the life of a New Yorker, and Big Apple Connect will connect our city to the future.”
NYCHA residents will not be billed for these services, and existing Optimum and Spectrum customers residing in NYCHA condominiums where Big Apple Connect is active will be automatically enrolled in the program and billed only for additional services placed, which they want to buy directly.
Residents will receive email alerts and mailers explaining why their bills have been reduced and information about Big Apple Connect.
Residents without existing service have the option to register directly through Spectrum or Optimum, or to attend on-site registration events hosted by the companies in partnership with the NYC Office of Technology and Innovation.
According to cable service providers, an estimated 30-40% of NYCHA residents do not have broadband access.
Once the rollout is complete, Big Apple Connect is expected to be the largest municipal internet cost recovery program for public housing residents in the country.
NYCHA residents enrolled in Big Apple Connect can also take advantage of the state’s Affordable Connectivity Program to save money on their cell phone bills. The Affordable Connectivity Program offers eligible households a discount of up to $30 per month on internet or cellular data service and is limited to one monthly service discount per month.
In addition to the Langston Hughes Houses in Brooklyn, other pilot locations in the five boroughs included:
–Bronx: Mott Haven houses
–Bronx: Patterson Houses
–Brooklyn: Brownsville houses
–Manhattan: Polo Grounds Towers
–Queens: Queensbridge houses
–Queens: Woodside houses
– Staten Island: Stapleton Houses
Information on current and future eligible NYCHA sites will be available on OTI’s Big Apple Connect site.
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