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A Million New Yorkers Have No Broadband Internet

Posted: January 28, 2022 at 1:12 pm / by / comments (0)

Many New York is suffering from “Zoom Frustration.” We’ve been using Zoom for the last 14 months to do business; our 13-year-old daughter has attended school on Zoom, and we’ve used Zoom to schedule visits with physicians. We are, in the words of our adolescent, “done with it.”But what if we weren’t able to connect to Zoom at all? Or is it even connected to the internet at all? Thirty percent of New York City homes do not have a broadband subscription, and almost 18 percent—more than 1.5 million New Yorkers—do not have either a mobile connection or WiFi, according to the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer.

Source: Unsplash

People who did not have access to the internet would be unable to attend school, enroll in unemployment benefits, attend a community board meeting, or consult a doctor starting in March 2020. Internet connectivity is no longer considered a luxury; instead, it is considered a necessary utility on par with heat and electricity. Internet access was an issue even before COVID-19, but the pandemic elevated it to the level of a catastrophe, one that is unlikely to abate just because quarantines have been lifted.

Internet and Wifi

It is not just the internet and WiFi that is insufficient; cell phone coverage is also. People need two extra items to access the internet: a suitable device (often a computer) and the knowledge and skills necessary to utilize it—a concept known as “digital literacy.” This trifecta is referred to as the “three-legged stool” of digital equity by industry insiders.

This holds particularly true when considering the intersection of philanthropy and the imperative of ensuring equitable access to the internet, especially in the context of extending internet accessibility to WIC recipients. Do you believe in the importance of healthcare? If patients can access the internet, telehealth can enhance health outcomes. Do you consider yourself a patron of the arts? New audiences may be reached with live streaming events, but only if the audience is connected.

For the most part, most New Yorkers who do not have access to WiFi reside in areas outside of Manhattan, where corporate internet service providers have refused to create infrastructure or compete for market share in low-income and minority communities. There is only one internet service provider in many communities, resulting in a monopoly and higher pricing for all consumers. Almost half of low-income families do not have access to high-speed internet at home.

Black and Hispanic New Yorkers have much lower rates of residential broadband subscriptions than white or Asian New Yorkers, according to the City’s most recent data. The expense of high-speed internet is out of reach for many low-income families trying to make ends meet. Because of that 14.4 million US citizens have no broadband internet access. When the pandemic struck, a few firms gave free starter accounts to students for a period of two or three months, depending on the company. Following that, the corporations began to charge customers for the service.

Broadband Services

Beginning on May 12, qualified families will be eligible for a government subsidy of $50 per month for broadband services. However, the government depends on commercial internet service providers to market the initiative and sign people up, which is, at the very least, a risky strategy to implement. We will not be able to fix this issue independently, and neither will the government nor internet service providers. Fortunately, the City of New York is home to a burgeoning network of digital equality campaigners, including grassroots groups, libraries, and government representatives. The New York Community Trust has awarded $1.5 million in grants for digital equality over the last year, and we want to award much more in the future. A few methods that philanthropic organizations should promote are as follows.

  • Neighborhoods are banding together to pressure internet service providers to deliver higher-quality, more affordable service.
  • We are assisting persons who are applying for government subsidies.
  • “Mesh networks,” accessible local WiFi networks, are being built.
  • We extend the reach of current WiFi networks by broadcasting them from public roofs, allowing them to be utilized for free in neighboring streets and buildings.
  • Teaching people how to utilize technology and managing technology help desks are two of my specialties.
  • Free computers, tablets, and hotspots are being distributed or lent out.
  • New models for community-owned and controlled telecommunications infrastructure are being developed and tested.

Millions of dollars in broadband infrastructure and adoption subsidies are included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Vice President Biden just approved. Communities, however, must collaborate with the government and internet service providers to ensure that those monies are used to provide long-term, universal access to the internet. In exchange for charitable support, we can assist the City’s low-income areas in bringing everyone — from schoolchildren to elders — into the online world that so many of us (including members of my family) take for granted.

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