New York City (WABC) – New York City launched its “Big Apple Connect” program on Monday, providing free high-speed internet to New York City residents in the nation’s largest free local broadband program.
Mayor Eric Adams and Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser announced the citywide launch after a successful pilot program.
The historic 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 across the five boroughs, including NYCHA’s Langston Hughes Homes in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where officials made the announcement.
It has now been expanded to include more than 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.
Approximately 350 Langston Hughes units—or roughly two-thirds of households in development—are already registered with Big Apple Connect.
“A 21st century city like New York deserves a 21st century infrastructure, and today, we continue our quest to bridge the digital divide by rolling out the landmark 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 critical digital tools to help them succeed.”
Big Apple Connect will provide residents of NYCHA projects with a free package consisting of a high-speed Internet connection at home, including a modem and a router; Basic cable TV service, including cable box and remote control; and Wi-Fi hotspots in the public area, selected in consultation with NYCHA.
After soliciting proposals earlier this year from current cable TV franchisees in New York City, the city has entered into three-year agreements with Altice (Optimum) and Charter (Spectrum), which will collectively cover the majority of NYCHA-owned and operated developments. The city continues to negotiate with Verizon as a potential third franchisee. OTI will be billed directly to all residents registered with “Big Apple Connect” for a period of three years.
“Broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that all New Yorkers should have,” Adams said. “That’s why by the end of next year, more than 200 NYCHA-developed projects will have access to free high-speed Internet and cable TV, giving nearly 300,000 New Yorkers access to essential tools to live productive lives. Something as simple as Free savings, accessible Wi-Fi can change the lives of New Yorkers, 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 who live in a NYCHA development where Big Apple Connect is active will be enrolled in the program and will be charged only for additional services they choose to purchase directly.
Residents will receive email and postal notifications explaining why their bills have been reduced, as well as information about Big Apple Connect.
Residents who do not have an existing service will have the opportunity to register directly through Spectrum or Optimum or can attend on-site registration events conducted by companies in partnership with the NYC Office of Technology and Innovation.
An estimated 30-40% of New Yorkers lack broadband, according to cable providers.
Once its rollout is complete, Big Apple Connect is expected to be the country’s largest internet coverage program for public housing residents in the country.
NYCHA residents who are registered with Big Apple Connect will also be able to use the federal Affordable Calling Program feature to save money on their cell phone bills. The affordable calling program offers up to $30 per month on internet or cellular data for eligible families and is limited to one monthly service discount.
In addition to the Langston Hughes homes in Brooklyn, other experimental sites in the five boroughs included:
–Bronx: Homes of Death Haven
–Bronx: Patterson Homes
–Brooklyn: Brownsville Homes
– Manhattan: Polo Grounds Towers
Queens: Queensbridge Houses
Queens: Woodside Houses
– Staten Island: Stapleton Houses
Information about eligible current and future NYCHA locations will be available at OTI’s Big Apple Connect site.
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