Mayor Adams Expands ‘Big Apple Connect’ To New Sites, And Free Broadband To NYCHA Households

August 1, 2023

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Chief Technology Officer and New York City Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI) Commissioner Matthew Fraser today announced.

They announced the expansion of “Big Apple Connect” to 17 new public housing developments —contributing to the delivery of free in-home internet and basic cable TV to a total of more than 330,000 in 150,000 households citywide. Building on the success of the program’s first two phases, which prioritized New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments with limited or no subsidized broadband options, today’s expansion answers calls from tenant associations and elected officials to expand the initiative, which now reaches a total of 220 NYCHA facilities.

“Access to broadband is not a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have to participate in a 21st-century society that bridges the digital divide,” said Mayor Adams. “With today’s expansion of our ‘Big Apple Connect’ program, we have rapidly connected almost every NYCHA resident across the city to broadband in less than a year, helping them unlock economic, educational, and social opportunities that will lead to more productive, connected lives. We thank the tenant leaders and elected officials who worked with us on this expansion and look forward to building on this progress in the months ahead.”

“Thanks to the ‘Big Apple Connect’ program, we are connecting NYCHA residents at breakneck speed to broadband and basic cable — helping to close the digital divide and advance equity across our city,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “This would not have been possible without the tenant leaders who have continually advocated for their residents, and the leadership of the mayor, chief technology officer, and NYCHA leadership.”

“This administration is dedicated to making sure all New Yorkers have internet access, and ‘Big Apple Connect’s’ expansion helps us further close the digital divide,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres Springer. “We cannot rebuild without all New Yorkers having the resources they need, and we’re proud to see this massive expansion of internet to NYCHA tenants.”

“‘Big Apple Connect’s’ latest expansion is a prime example of this administration listening to the needs of historically underserved New Yorkers — and delivering vital services that improve their lives,” said New York City Chief Technology Officer Matt Fraser. “As we rolled out this program’s initial phases, bringing free high-speed internet and basic cable TV to 300,000 New Yorkers at more than 200 public housing sites, we heard from a vocal contingent of community and elected stakeholders calling for additional NYCHA locations to receive ‘Big Apple Connect.’ Today’s announcement ensures that thousands of students, families, and older adults across the city can enjoy this initiative’s sizable cost-savings while also accessing all the opportunities provided by reliable internet access. I thank Mayor Adams for his unwavering commitment to bridging the digital divide, and Altice and Charter for their partnership on this landmark program.”

“Digital equity is of the utmost importance,” said NYCHA CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt. “Internet access makes a world of difference, and today’s announcement of the expansion of ‘Big Apple Connect’ to 17 new NYCHA developments brings this critical tool into the homes of over 30,000 residents, undoubtedly changing their lives for the better. We extend our sincerest thanks to the Office of Technology and Innovation for their work in bringing this critical resource to NYCHA residents.”

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The latest expansion of Big Apple Connect spans nine developments in Manhattan, seven in Brooklyn, and one in the Bronx — delivering the service to more than 30,000 additional New Yorkers. Nine of the developments are home to more than 1,000 households, including Baruch and Wald Houses on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Red Hook East and West in Brooklyn. Newly added developments are:

  • 303 Vernon Avenue (Brooklyn)
  • Atlantic Terminal Site 4B (Brooklyn)
  • Baruch Houses (Manhattan)
  • Baruch Houses Addition (Manhattan)
  • De Hostos Apartments (Manhattan)
  • Jefferson (Manhattan)
  • Kingsborough Houses (Brooklyn)
  • Kingsborough Extension (Brooklyn)
  • Manhattanville Houses (Manhattan)
  • Morrisania Air Rights (Bronx)
  • Red Hook East (Brooklyn)
  • Red Hook West (Brooklyn)
  • Riis Houses (Manhattan)
  • Riis Houses II (Manhattan)
  • Saint Nicholas (Manhattan)
  • Wald (Manhattan)
  • Woodson (Brooklyn)

New Yorkers can view a full list of Big Apple Connect eligible NYCHA developments online.

“This expansion reflects a profound commitment to bridging the digital divide and fostering connectivity, thereby empowering our community to thrive in the modern world,” said Tanya Pedler, president, Morrisania Air Rights Resident Association. “We applaud Mayor Adams for his visionary leadership and unwavering support in enhancing the lives of our residents through this remarkable program.”

“The residents have been asking about this program for a long time,” said Daphne Williams, president, Jacob Riis Houses Resident Association. “I am glad we finally have it.”

“I’m thrilled that several NYCHA developments in my district will receive the benefit of ‘Big Apple Connect,’” said U.S. Representative Dan Goldman. “My office has fielded calls from resident leaders requesting ‘Big Apple Connect’ at their development, and I am grateful that the Adams administration listened and engaged with residents on this matter. Access to affordable and reliable internet for low-income families is extremely vital, and I am grateful for this commitment from the mayor, chief technology officer, and NYCHA tenant associations.”

“If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that access to the internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity in our increasingly digital aid,” said New York State Assemblymember Harvey Epstein. “Nearly 25 percent of NYCHA residents are students under the age of 18 who need access to the internet to complete their schoolwork. An investment in ‘Big Apple Connect’ is an investment towards closing the homework gap that leaves low-income students unable to complete their homework and stay on track with their peers due to lack of internet access. Our city must provide young people with the educational tools they need to thrive and ‘Big Apple Connect’s’ expansion is a victory for New York City students.”

“Big Apple Connect, the nation’s largest municipal broadband program, is a critical tool in a suite of initiatives to ensure New Yorkers are able to access the internet and benefit from the resources that connectivity provides,” said New York City Councilmember Carlina Rivera. “The pandemic made clear that too many households do not have reliable access to the internet and that there is more work to do to expand access to affordable services. I commend the administration for continuing to expand this invaluable program, which has already delivered service to 300,000 New Yorkers, and will now ensure residents in NYCHA’s Baruch Houses, Jacob Riis Houses, and Wald Houses have better access to the internet.”

Mayor Adams launched ‘Big Apple Connect’ in September 2022, with a first phase that reached more than 90,000 households across 135 NYCHA developments and a promise to serve 200 sites by the end of 2023. This past March, the Adams administration expanded program eligibility to make it available to an additional 40,000 households at 67 new sites — completing the initial goal nine months ahead of schedule. In June, ‘Big Apple Connect’ surpassed 100,000 household enrollments and 75 percent adoption across eligible developments. The program, which is the largest municipal broadband program in the country, has saved NYCHA residents tens of millions of dollars since its inception, according to service providers.

‘Big Apple Connect’ provides residents of NYCHA developments a free bundle that consists of in-home, high-speed internet connection, including a modem and router; basic cable TV service, including a cable box and remote control; and common area Wi-Fi hotspots, selected in consultation with NYCHA.

Leveraging existing infrastructure to deliver affordable internet service as quickly as possible, OTI entered into three-year agreements with Altice (Optimum) and Charter (Spectrum), guaranteeing delivery of the program through 2025, with two extension options through 2027. OTI is billed directly for all residents enrolled in the program.

Existing customers of Optimum and Spectrum living in NYCHA developments where ‘Big Apple Connect’ is active are automatically enrolled in the program and are only billed for additional services they choose to purchase directly. Residents receive email notifications and mailers explaining why their bills were lowered as well as information on ‘Big Apple Connect.’ Residents without existing service can sign up directly though Optimum or Spectrum or may attend on-site enrollment events conducted by the companies in partnership with OTI.

“Optimum is proud to be a founding partner of ‘Big Apple Connect,’ a program that ensures residents in more than 100 Bronx and Brooklyn NYCHA buildings have access to Optimum broadband and TV at no cost,” said Leroy Williams, chief growth officer, Optimum. “Through this latest expansion, Optimum is thrilled to be the connectivity provider of choice by extending its essential connectivity services along with hyperlocal News 12 coverage to thousands more residents, enabling them to work, learn, and stay connected to their community every day. ‘Big Apple Connect’ is proving itself as an effective model to bridge the digital divide, and we commend the city on its unwavering commitment to ensure New York City residents are able to have access to all of the benefits that broadband service provides.”

“This latest expansion of Big Apple Connect is another indicator of the powerful impact of this partnership with the Adams administration on bridging the digital divide,” said Keith Dardis, senior vice president, Spectrum Community Solutions. “Our team is ready to bring the benefits of Spectrum Internet and TV to thousands more families, who will depend on that connectivity for employment, education, and so much more in today’s increasingly digital world.”

‘Big Apple Connect’ builds on the city’s suite of digital equity initiatives, aimed at making sure every New Yorker has the connectivity they need to participate in an increasingly digital society. Efforts include the Link5G program, which is aimed at delivering high-speed wireless service and free Wi-Fi to every corner of New York City; the city’s Gigabit Centers, which provide free connectivity and digital literacy training to community centers; and OTI’s ‘Connected Communities’ program, a large-scale digital inclusion initiative that delivers digital literacy and employment resources in historically underserved areas for thousands of New Yorkers every year.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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