NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New York City plans to expand broadband access for hundreds of thousands of low-income residents, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.
De Blasio said $87 million of the $157 million project will come from the NYPD’s capital budget in what he called the “spirit of redistribution.”
“That digital divide is very, very intense – 1.5 million New Yorkers lack home broadband access. So this is something we have to go at head-on,” he said. “It’s another tale of two cities, it has been for a long time and it’s all, bluntly, about the profit.”
The mayor’s task force on racial inclusion and equity put forth the plan.
“The internet is more of a necessity now than a convenience, and this will be even more true in the future,” said Deputy Mayor Phillip Thompson, who co-chairs the committee with first lady Chirlane McCray. “Not having access to the internet in 2020 is like not having access to public education was in 1950. It closes paths to opportunity and makes our economic and racial divides even greater.”
The goal is to reach 600,000 low-income residents, including 200,000 in public housing, with affordable internet access over the next 18 months.
“COVID-19 has exacerbated the digital divide that we already knew existed,” Arva Rice, President and CEO of New York Urban League, added. “The divide was keeping our 1.1 million public school children from being able to complete school work that went from in-classroom to 100% virtual studies over the course of a weekend.”
De Blasio said he also plans to lobby for a state law that would allow the city to charge internet companies for using its streets, and then use the revenue to pay for service in these communities.