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Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn Announce New Initiatives to Expand New York City’s Broadband Connectivity, Bolstering the Growing Tech Sector and Allowing Businesses and Residents to Access High-Speed Internet

Press Release


Designed to Address Specific Challenge Areas the City Faces to Ensure NYC is a Global Leader in Connectivity and Technology in the 21st Century

Hundreds of Buildings Wired and Certified Over Next 2 Years, Tens of Thousands of Permits Issued More Efficiently

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today announced a suite of new initiatives to expand New York City’s broadband connectivity and ensure that the City further establishes its leadership position in connectivity and technology for the 21st century. Designed to capitalize on the growth currently taking place within the City’s technology sector by addressing critical ongoing challenges, the initiatives include a competition to build out fiber wiring for commercial and industrial buildings, a grading program for connectivity in New York City buildings, a crowd-sourced digital map highlighting wired buildings citywide, a streamlined process for broadband-related permitting as well as exploring the streamlining of regulatory issues, and a competition to develop mobile applications to help residents access critical services provided by the City and community-based organizations. Collectively, these initiatives, which were developed in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, are expected to lead to hundreds of buildings being wired for state-of-the-art connectivity in the next two years, tens of thousands of permits issued through more efficient and streamlined processes, thousands of buildings being certified and placed on the City’s digital map, and a significant increase in online resources for thousands of residents of the five boroughs. The announcement was made by Deputy Mayor Steel this morning in a forum sponsored by the Association for a Better New York.

“The growing technology industry is diversifying the City’s economy and creating the jobs of the future,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “To support those jobs, we need to help the industry get the resources it needs – whether that means more qualified engineers or broadband connections. But encouraging investment in broadband will help more than just the tech sector – it will make sure more businesses and more New Yorkers can get connected.”

“These five initiatives we're announcing today to improve access to high-speed broadband come at a time when our city’s businesses and residents depend on the internet more now than ever before,” said Speaker Quinn. “By removing impediments to business operation, such as the lack of access to broadband in commercial office buildings, we’ll ensure business owners can focus the bulk of their attention on running a successful business. I thank Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Steel for working with the City Council to address the needs of those most affected by these issues and taking even more concrete steps toward our goal of making New York City the tech capital of the world.”

“Broadband is the infrastructure of the modern age, and a basic necessity not just for tech businesses, but for every business,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel. “These initiatives will harness market dynamics and create increased transparency to incentivize the private sector to expand New York’s broadband infrastructure.”

“While New York City’s emergence as a global hub of technology and innovation is a promising sign for the future of our economy, certain challenges must be met in order for us to stay competitive,” said Seth W. Pinsky, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “Through this innovative suite of initiatives, we will pilot programs to address critical challenges to our broadband infrastructure, expanding connectivity for both businesses and residents, increasing critical information that is available to the public, and streamlining operational processes for permitting. Thanks to the support of our dedicated public and private partners, these programs will help ensure that the City’s economy continues to grow and that we maintain our leadership position going forward.”

“DoITT helps lead the Administration’s digital inclusion efforts with a range of initiatives to foster both broadband build-out and adoption in underserved areas and communities citywide. This also includes making fiber connectivity available to every city household by the end of 2014,” said Citywide Chief Innovation and Information Officer Rahul N. Merchant. “Building upon those efforts with today’s suite of initiatives, we’re ensuring the promise of broadband technology as infrastructure vital to New York City’s residents, businesses, and entrepreneurs in the 21st century marketplace.”

“The greatest city in the world demands the best Internet connectivity in the world, and today Mayor Bloomberg has made an historic investment in New York City’s digital future that brings us a step closer to that goal,” said Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne. “These visionary initiatives led by Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Steel will connect New Yorkers, fuel innovation and propel the City’s thriving technology sector to even greater heights.”

Thanks to a number of groundbreaking initiatives, including Applied Sciences NYC which led to the selections of Cornell/Technion and an NYU-led consortium to build world-class centers of innovation in the City, New York has recently gained universally-recognized momentum in technology and innovation. However, despite these advantages, there remain challenges in this area that must be addressed in order to maintain this momentum and ensure a global leadership position for the future. These specific challenges fall into three separate categories, including:

  • The “Last Mile,” in which broadband infrastructure exists within the streets and the avenues but  is not connected to buildings where businesses can utilize them, particularly within a number of emerging high-tech neighborhoods across the City;
  • “Digital Deserts,” in which there are underserved pockets in industrial and manufacturing neighborhoods that lack broadband infrastructure in the surrounding streets; and
  • The “Digital Divide,” a national problem, which persists in the City with low-adoption rates for broadband connectivity within low-income communities.

These obstacles to the City’s long-term competitiveness led the Bloomberg Administration to convene a series of conversations with leading businesses and technology entrepreneurs throughout New York City – including members of the Mayor’s Council on Technology and Innovation – in order to determine the most critical issues as well as solutions that will ultimately allow both the City’s economy to prosper and to provide equal opportunities for all New Yorkers. 

The initiatives that resulted from these conversations will be implemented over the course of the next several months, and include:

  • ConnectNYC: a competition to build out fiber connectivity for commercial and industrial buildings across the five boroughs. While the wiring of certain previously-underserved areas, like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, is now underway, through ConnectNYC, the City will assist small and medium-sized businesses, including industrial businesses, in unwired or underwired buildings to apply for free fast-track wiring. Companies would apply through a competitive process that will make awards based on a demonstration of how additional connectivity would help them grow their business. The City is currently in advanced discussions with Time Warner Cable about partnering on this exciting program, which could help achieve the goal of wiring several hundred additional buildings in the City for high-speed internet. Time Warner has already made a substantial investment through its Business Class division in deploying fiber optics to many commercial districts in New York City. An announcement of a final agreement is anticipated the coming weeks that would ultimately lead to this shared goal.
  • WiredNYC: a building certification program that will evaluate the broadband infrastructure of New York City buildings in order to encourage and accelerate deployment of leading broadband technologies. This program will create transparency about broadband infrastructure in the commercial real estate market, giving businesses information about a building’s connectivity when choosing where to locate, and allowing  landlords to market their buildings’ assets and compete for tenants. This program, and the associated grading standards, will be structured in partnership with both the real estate industry – represented by Rudin Management, Jared Kushner, and others – as well as the tech sector. WiredNYC will have a goal of cataloguing and ranking more than 300 commercial office buildings totaling more than 16 million square feet in the next two years.
  • NYC Broadband Connect Map: building upon the success of the Made in New York Digital Jobs Map recently released by Mayor Bloomberg and Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne, the NYC Broadband Connect map will fill knowledge gaps in the market. The Broadband Connect map will be a crowd-sourced, dynamic website in which businesses can learn about connectivity availability and capabilities in a given building or neighborhood. The map will incorporate multiple sources of data, such as the WiredNYC grades and information from several NYC fiber providers who are partnering with the City, including Optical Communications Group (OCG), Reliance Globalcom, Zayo and RCN. Finally, the most important source of information will be from businesses around the City that will share details on their current service, as well as the type of service they would ideally like to have in their buildings – allowing the City’s broadband companies to understand where the demand for service exists.  This new resource for businesses will be launched by the end of 2012 by NYCEDC.
  • Broadband Express: the City, under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway and Citywide Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul Merchant, will, working in partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation, begin a process of simplifying operational issues as well as regulatory hurdles for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The City will immediately identify a City point-person for ISP street operations permitting as well as other related issues. This position will help ensure that businesses get the service they need when they need it, and the City will soon begin to commit to processing all standard broadband-related street operations permits within two business days, on average, and gather data in order to be held accountable. This program could ultimately facilitate nearly 25,000 broadband-related permits in the next two years alone. In addition to immediately focusing on permitting, the City will also begin to explore the streamlining of additional broadband connectivity regulatory issues for ISPs in the future.
  • CitizenConnect: Building on the work that the City is already doing to target the “Digital Divide”, including the expansion of more than 100 free public computing centers across the five boroughs and the securing of tens of millions in federal Recovery Act monies to increase broadband access for public school students and families, NYCEDC and DoITT, in partnership with Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), Human Resources Administration (HRA), and the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), will create a competition to develop mobile applications that will help City residents access workforce development opportunities, jobs listings and worker support programs such as childcare, healthcare and transportation.  These services typically require a computer or laptop, which many low-income City residents do not have access to in their homes. While residents seeking jobs can currently use computers at public computing centers across the five boroughs, including any one of the City’s 15 Workforce1 Centers, providing these unconnected communities with access to services via available mobile platforms – which have much higher penetration throughout the City than other forms of technology – will better connect the City and community based organizations and the services they provide to their clients. Working closely with the tech sector, this competition will bring together service delivery organizations as well as developers to brainstorm challenges and develop prototype solutions that will assist residents and increased economic opportunities.

“I commend the Administration for the package of broadband initiatives being announced today,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer, Chair, Committee on Governmental Operations, former Chair, Committee on Technology. “I have been advocating for improved broadband services in New York City for several years, including when I passed a Law to create a Broadband Advisory Committee that met in all five boroughs to discuss broadband access issues. Today’s announcement is a great step toward closing the digital divide in our city, and I look forward to working with the Administration and Speaker Quinn to develop new and innovative ways to improve our city's connectivity and tech economy.”

“Access to broadband connections, thick broadband, with real throughput is vital to both startups and established businesses,” said John Borthwick, CEO of betaworks. “Connectivity is the electricity of our era and our city should be a leader in "lighting up" both our neighborhoods and buildings.  The Connect NYC and WiredNYC initiatives will offer much needed competition and transparency to New York.”

“As the recently released New Tech City report showed, expanding the City’s broadband connectivity is essential for attracting and retaining businesses from every sector in New York City,” said Bill Rudin, Chairman of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) and Vice-Chairman and CEO of Rudin Management.  “The City's efforts to increase connectivity in conjunction with the new WiredNYC program will enhance and market New York’s tech accessibility, creating jobs, spurring capital investment, and making our city even more competitive in the global marketplace.”

“Broadband proliferation is essential for New York City to maintain its vibrancy and to continue to grow, and we are pleased to participate in the City’s efforts to increase access throughout the five boroughs.” said Jared Kushner, CEO of Kushner Companies. “Providing available information and creating a uniform standard to identify broadband access in NYC office buildings is a win for both tenant businesses and commercial real estate companies. We look forward to working together with our partners in this effort to ensure that hundreds of buildings are certified and catalogued over the next several years.”  

“These initiatives are proof that the City of New York is committed to establishing itself as a leader in technology and innovation,” said Susan Crawford, former Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy and current member of the Mayor’s Council on Technology and Innovation. “I have been honored to participate on the Mayor’s advisory council to help the City recognize the issues it faces with wired high-speed Internet access, and to work collaboratively with leaders in this field to help determine innovative solutions that will allow this sector to continue to grow and thrive in the future.”

“New Yorkers looking for jobs can currently access Workforce1 services by visiting a Workforce1 Center in all five boroughs, or by going online from home, school, a public library, or wherever is most convenient,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “Working with EDC on a mobile app opens up new ways to better serve jobseekers, and connect more New Yorkers to Workforce1 by using the latest in technology.”

“The Department of Youth and Community Development is committed to bringing as many resources as possible to those New Yorkers most in need,” said DYCD Commissioner Jeanne B. Mullgrav. “Our young people are remarkably tech savvy, and increasingly use mobile platforms to communicate and get information. We are delighted to join our City agency partners to continue to find innovative ways to connect our youth and families to services and new opportunities.”

“Mobile and other digital communications platforms have the potential to dramatically improve our ability to deliver social services in New York City,” said HRA Commissioner Robert Doar. “In a survey conducted by HRA of our clients, over 76 percent of those receiving cash assistance and food stamps, preferred text messages to get updates on available job opportunities. We are committed to this project and are excited to give New Yorkers in need information on the latest job opportunities as-they-happen.”

About NYCEDC

New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City's primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC's mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City's competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City's many opportunities. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or visit our blog to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.

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