“Welcome to the Mesh, Brother”: Guerrilla Wi-Fi Comes to New York

Prior to the recent vision, the city’s last major broadband intervention was negotiated under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2006. New York City entered into a franchise deal with Verizon that gave the company the privilege of burying fiber optic cable under city streets in exchange for installing high-speed Fios in each neighborhood. But Verizon has failed to do so in many low-income neighborhoods. At a public hearing in April, the city’s chief technology officer, John Paul Farmer, said the relatively low number of vendors in some neighborhoods meant there was little market pressure to lower prices. . “The current oligopolistic system is broken and it has created digital inequalities in the streets and neighborhoods of New York,” he said.

The city recently reached a regulation with Verizon, requiring it to connect an additional 500,000 homes, including at least 125,000 in underserved neighborhoods, by 2023.

Chris Serico, spokesperson for Verizon, said the company is on track to meet the terms of its settlement. “Verizon is committed to finding long-term solutions that make affordable broadband options available to low-income Americans,” Serico wrote in an email.

Clayton Banks, chief executive of Silicon Harlem, a company focused on increasing connectivity in Harlem, said he hoped the city’s strategy of betting on more competition would work, but waited to see how Fios and the current suppliers would be priced. . “If you keep developing the infrastructure, which is certainly welcome and necessary, but you keep the same retail price,” he said, “you haven’t solved anything in terms of more people online.

After months of back-and-forth, NYC Mesh got the go-ahead to install a hub on the 24-story public housing tower in Bed-Stuy, along with two other developments in the Bronx and Queens. Four other small vendors, including Silicon Harlem, were selected to wire 10 other NYCHA developments. As part of the first phase of the Internet master plan, to which the city will dedicate $ 157 million, NYC Mesh has installed free public hotspots around the outdoor grounds of the projects; other businesses must provide residents with access to Wi-Fi in their apartments for a maximum of $ 20 per month.

NYC Mesh has requested to establish hubs on 163 additional public buildings as part of phase two. If successful, this would allow NYC Mesh to cover much of the city for the next five to seven years. Since every router installation comes with a free public Wi-Fi hotspot, NYC Mesh could help make the internet truly universal throughout New York City.

Even though NYC Mesh has continued to grow, it still faces the same problems as the big suppliers: the Internet sometimes goes down. Mr. Heredia and other volunteers pride themselves on resolving service issues quickly, but as the organization grows it will need more people like Mr. Heredia if it is to keep its members happy.

About Ferdinand Caldwell

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