With just a few weeks left as mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg announced today the buildout of the largest continuous free public Wi-Fi network in the nation. The network will be free for all users within a 95-city-block coverage area in Harlem where approximately 80,000 New Yorkers live, including 13,000 public housing residents. The network is scheduled for completion in 2014.
“In 2013 being successful requires being connected,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
The network has been funded for free public use for five years by the Fuhrman Family Foundation and the Mayor’s Fund. When the network is completed, it will extend from 110th to 138th Streets between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Madison Avenue. The first phase of construction, now underway, will allow connectivity from 110th to 120th streets and is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.
In an official press release, various New York officials and representatives of organizations associated with the project praised the network, citing educational opportunities, an enhanced quality of life, and increased convenience for the residents of Harlem.
The project’s deployment is being overseen by the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and the Technology Development Corporation, with technology provided by Sky-Packets.
According to the city, Internet access provided through the network will be unlimited, completely free, and available at all times.
Harlem’s free Wi-Fi network is one of many city programs focused on providing more residents, particularly low-income residents, access to the Internet. These programs include mobile computer labs provided through the Housing Authority’s Digital Vans, government funded computer courses, and government subsidized broadband access. Many of these programs were formerly funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and now receive continued funding through NYC Connected Communities.