A Recovery For All Of Us: Mayor de Blasio Announces Major Next Steps to Close the Digital Divide in NYC
City releases requesting proposals for modern, innovative, equitable broadband infrastructure for universal broadband and announces reservation process for light poles to be used for 5G installation
NEW YORK––Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced next steps on the City’s efforts to achieve affordable and universal broadband. With a historic $157 million capital investment, the City is releasing a Request for Proposals that invites the telecommunications industry to create new affordable broadband service options through a first-ever coordinated system of access of up to 100,000 City assets, prioritizing areas identified by the Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity. The Mayor also announced the City will accelerate the buildout of 5G by making an unprecedented 7,500 City street poles available for mobile carriers to build out their networks, mainly in underserved areas. Combined, these initiatives will reach millions of New Yorkers across all five boroughs, expanding access to quality, high-speed, and reliable internet at home or on the go.
“All New Yorkers deserve affordable Internet access, no matter their zip code,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With this historic effort to invest in broadband and 5G infrastructure, we are making tremendous strides toward closing the digital divide once and for all.”
REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS
The RFP represents a first in the nation approach to closing the digital divide and changing the broadband market, incentivizing companies of every size, and M/WBEs, to provide new high-performing and affordable broadband service options. The RFP is being released as a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO), the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Through the RFP, the City expects to engage multiple internet service providers using a range of technologies that will lower connectivity costs for New Yorkers and increase competition amongst companies while incentivizing them to reach and serve more customers with broadband starting with more than 30 target neighborhoods identified by the Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity as most impacted by COVID-19. The RFP will reach 600,000 New Yorkers, including 200,000 public housing residents.
The NYC Internet Master Plan indicates that 18% of New Yorkers, or 1.5 million people, have neither a home nor a mobile internet connection. New Yorkers without internet connectivity are more negatively impacted during COVID-19 without the ability to access jobs, training, education, and mental health and healthcare resources from home.
18 agencies and entities have made up to 100,000 assets available for the RFP, including: Department of Social Services (DSS), Human Resources Administration (HRA); Department of Homeless Services (DHS); New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC); Department of Transportation (DOT); Department of Environmental Protection (DEP); Parks Department (Parks); Department of Sanitation (DSNY); Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS); Department of Education (DOE); Health + Hospitals (H+H); New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA); Department of Correction (DOC); New York Public Library (NYPL); Queens Public Library (QPL); Brooklyn Public Library (BPL); the Fire Department (FDNY); and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Proposals for the RFP will be accepted from March 3rd, 2021 through April 19th, 2021. Details and submission information can be found online at http://nyc.gov/broadbandrfp.
POLE-TOP RESERVATION PLAN FOR 5G
To make New York City a leader in municipal 5G deployments, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) will make 7,500 street poles available to mobile telecommunications franchisees through the City’s new online reservation portal, which streamlines the process. About 1,500 poles will be released each quarter over the next 15 months, with the first reservation phase starting this month.
This doubles the number of City street poles currently reserved and will ensure that 5G is built out equitably by making 75 percent of the poles available in the outer boroughs or above 96th Street in Manhattan. This strategic approach will make sure that historically underserved and under-connected neighborhoods can benefit from 5G and its promise of broadband-like speeds for cellular data connections.
Wireless companies that hold one of twelve mobile telecommunications franchise agreements with DoITT will install and operate mobile equipment on City-owned light poles and privately-owned utility poles. The 5G equipment can be housed and concealed in a box that also supports 4G equipment. The Public Design Commission has approved a uniform single-tenant design, which represents an unprecedented collaboration between the City and the mobile telecommunications industry and takes the public’s input into account. Additionally, after an extensive review, the Department of Buildings will issue guidance to clarify standards for siting and placement of antennas on buildings.
These efforts to bridge the digital divide will be accelerated through the enactment of legislation (S. 3141 Parker) which will level the internet service provider playing field and increase competition to lower prices. The City currently administers franchises for providers of cable companies that provide internet service but is prevented by state law from similarly engaging broadband-only companies.
Providing the City with the authority to issue franchises to a broader set of companies, not just cable internet franchisees, will increase consumer choice and drive down prices of in-home broadband, enabling more lower-income households to subscribe. With this legislation, New York City can improve upon important consumer protections to advance high-quality service standards and safeguard the rights of consumers.