New York City plans massive free Wi-Fi zone
Harlem to get 95 blocks of wireless coverage
New York is poised to set up a huge free Wi-Fi program that could reach 80,000 people.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the NYC Technology Development Corporation and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications will set up the network in Harlem's business districts.
Under the plan, a wireless network will be installed to cover the areas from from 110th to 138th Streets running between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Madison Avenue. The city estimates that the new network will bring coverage to 80,000 people, including 13,000 who live in public housing facilities.
Ultimately, officials hope the connectivity will be a boon for business and education in Harlem.
Dubbed "Silicon Alley," Manhattan has worked to establish itself as a leader in the technology space alongside hotbeds like San Francisco and Boston. In 2011, the city's Lower East Side drew the attention of the Feds when the activities of LulzSec leader Hector "Sabu" Monsegur were traced to a local housing project.
Mayor Bloomberg said officials will be working with wireless service provider SkyPackets to build and maintain the network. The project will be funded by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the Fuhrman Family Foundation.
"Internet access is critical to New York City's digital future, and today's announcement will spur technology education, innovation and economic opportunity," said New York City chief digital officer Rachel Haot.
"This historic public Wi-Fi partnership in Harlem is the largest in the city's history and will strengthen the community as it connects more New Yorkers than ever before."
Should New York succeed in its effort, other cities could soon find themselves following the Big Apple's lead with their own projects.
Building municipal Wi-Fi networks has proven difficult in many sprawling US cities where residents are often spread out over far larger coverage areas than most European cities, driving up hardware costs and network complexity.
San Francisco has been struggling for nearly a decade to set up its own citywide Wi-Fi network, only to find multiple attempts from public, private and crowd-sourced efforts fall short of realizing full coverage for all citizens. ®