NEW YORK (WABC) — New York City launched “Big Apple Connect” on Monday, offering free high-speed internet to NYCHA residents in what is 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 landmark digital equity program will provide approximately 300,000 New Yorkers living in more than 200 NYCHA developments by the end of 2023 with free broadband Internet access and basic cable television.
The program was initially piloted in eight public housing estates across 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’s debut last month at Langston Hughes, more than 200 existing Optimum customers have been automatically converted and 120 new subscribers have been added.
Nearly 350 Langston Hughes units – roughly two-thirds of the development’s households – are already signed up for Big Apple Connect.
“A 21st century city like New York deserves 21st century infrastructure, and today we continue our quest to close the digital divide with the historic deployment of Big Apple Connect,” Adams said. “For too long, low-income communities, immigrant communities and communities of color have been ignored when it comes to accessing essential digital tools to help them succeed.”
Big Apple Connect will provide residents of NYCHA developments with a free package consisting of a high-speed home Internet connection, including a modem and router; basic cable TV service, including cable box and remote control; and common Wi-Fi hotspots, selected in consultation with NYCHA.
After soliciting proposals earlier this year from New York cable TV franchisees, the city has entered into three-year agreements with Altice (Optimum) and Charter (Spectrum), which will collectively cover the majority of developments owned and managed by NYCHA. The city continues to negotiate with Verizon as a possible third franchisee. OTI will be billed directly for all residents enrolled in “Big Apple Connect” for the three-year term.
“Broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that all New Yorkers should have access to,” Adams said. “That’s why 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 tools essential to leading a productive life. Something as simple as providing free, accessible Wi-Fi can change the life of a New Yorker, 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 living in NYCHA developments where Big Apple Connect is active will be automatically enrolled in the program and will only be charged for additional services. they choose to buy direct.
Residents will receive email notifications and shippers explaining why their bills have been reduced, as well as information about Big Apple Connect.
Residents without existing service will have the option to register directly through Spectrum or Optimum or can attend on-site registration events hosted by the companies in partnership with the NYC Office of Technology and Innovation.
According to cable service providers, approximately 30-40% of NYCHA residents do not have broadband access.
Once fully rolled out, Big Apple Connect is expected to be the largest municipal program to cover the cost of internet for public housing residents nationwide.
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 provides a rebate of up to $30 per month on internet or cellular data service for eligible households and is limited to one monthly service rebate per month.
In addition to the Langston Hughes Houses in Brooklyn, other pilot sites in the five boroughs included:
–Bronx: Mott Haven Homes
–Bronx: Patterson Houses
–Brooklyn: Brownsville Homes
–Manhattan: the towers of the polo field
–Queens: Queensbridge Homes
–Queens: Woodside Homes
–Staten Island: Stapleton Houses
Information on current and future eligible NYCHA sites will be available on OTI’s Big Apple Connect website.
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