New York City launched a new digital equity program, called “Big Apple Connect,” on Sept. 19 that will provide free high-speed internet and basic cable TV to about 300,000 New Yorkers living in more than 200 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments by the end of 2023.


Following a successful pilot program, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Matthew Fraser announced the program’s official launch, making it the nation’s largest free municipal broadband program.


“A 21st-century city like New York deserves 21st-century infrastructure, and, today, we continue our quest to bridge the digital divide with the landmark rollout of ‘Big Apple Connect,’” Mayor Adams said in a press release. “For too long, lower-income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color have been ignored when it comes to accessing the critical digital tools to help them succeed.”

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“Broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity that all New Yorkers should have access to,” he added. “Something as simple as providing free, accessible Wi-Fi can change the life of a New Yorker, and ‘Big Apple Connect’ will link our city to the future.”


The city requested proposals from existing NYC cable TV franchisees earlier this year and announced it entered into three-year agreements with Altice (Optimum) and Charter (Spectrum), which will collectively cover the majority of developments owned and managed by NYCHA. The city is continuing to negotiate with Verizon as a possible third franchisee.


Residents of NYCHA developments will receive a free bundle that consists of an 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.


“‘Big Apple Connect’ is a game-changer for today’s New Yorkers living in public housing on par with the advent of utilities like heat or hot water,” said Fraser. “This citywide broadband initiative ensures that New Yorkers need not defer their dreams – or fail to meet basic needs – because they lack the resources to pay for internet or live in a pre-war building. Our city’s students, senior citizens, parents, and job seekers who need in-home, high-speed internet access the most will experience tangible day-one benefits that enrich their lives for years to come.”


An estimated 30 to 40 percent of NYCHA residents lack broadband, according to cable service providers. 


Those without broadband will have the opportunity to sign up for the program through Spectrum or Optimum or may attend on-site enrollment events. Those who are existing customers of Optimum and Spectrum living in NYCHA developments where ‘Big Apple Connect’ is active will automatically be enrolled in the program.


“This program is wonderful,” said Ciprian Noel, tenant association president of Langston Hughes Houses – where the program was piloted. “As a single father of two kids in college, it helps me save money and provides essential internet service in my home. I encourage more NYCHA residents to sign up for Big Apple Connect because it helps us connect with people. I am grateful to Mayor Adams and CTO Fraser for thinking about the residents of Langston Hughes as they implemented this program.”

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