Mayor Adams Expands ‘Big Apple Connect’ to Deliver Free Internet, TV to More Than 300,000 New Yorker

March 23, 2023

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Delivery of Completion of Nation’s Largest Municipal Broadband Comes Ahead of Schedule

NEW YORK – 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 the expansion of ‘Big Apple Connect’ — the nation’s largest municipal broadband program — by nearly 50 percent, providing free internet and basic cable television service to a total of 202 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments, and reaching approximately 300,000 New Yorkers. OTI has now expanded ‘Big Apple Connect’ to an additional 67 NYCHA developments since last year, reaching up to 40,000 new households — ahead of schedule after announced at the full launch last fall when Mayor Adams promised to install ‘Big Apple Connect’ in more than 200 NYCHA developments by the end of 2023.

“Too many underserved communities go without access to internet in their homes, preventing them from connecting with the ‘information super highway,’ said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “With the expansion of Big Apple Connect, thousands of additional low-income individuals and families can receive reliable high-speed internet access that is essential for work, school, paying bills, and online shopping for basic household needs. We must continue the fight to close the pervasive digital divide in our country and provide every American with vital technological resources, no matter their zip code or socioeconomic status.”

“Six months ago, I promised that we would bridge the digital divide for NYCHA residents, and today I’m proud to deliver on that commitment ahead of schedule,” said Mayor Adams. “With this expansion of ‘Big Apple Connect,’ the nation’s largest municipal broadband program to more than 200 NYCHA developments, more than 300,000 New Yorkers now have access to internet and cable TV for free. Internet isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity, and today we’re proud to connect hundreds of thousands more New Yorkers to opportunities and to the future.” 

“‘Big Apple Connect’s’ expansion marks a continued effort by this administration to close the digital divide and prioritize equity across our city,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “Your zip code or neighborhood should not define whether or not you have access to critically needed internet services. I applaud Chief Technology Officer Fraser’s commitment for delivering on a promise to reach hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers across over 200 NYCHA developments.”

“A better-connected New York City is a safer, more prosperous, and more equitable New York City,” said Chief Technology Officer and OTI Commissioner Fraser. “‘Big Apple Connect’s’ expansion ensures that thousands of students, families, jobseekers, and older adults living in public housing now have the broadband access needed to fully participate in our modern society. I am grateful to Mayor Adams for his action-oriented commitment to bridging the digital divide, and I thank Altice and Charter for their partnership on this landmark project.”

“As we learned during the pandemic, access to high-speed internet is a necessity rather than an amenity. Expanding ‘Big Apple Connect’ will fulfill yet another goal of ‘Housing Our Neighbors,’ the city’s housing and homelessness blueprint,” said Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. “Ending the digital divide is one more way of addressing racial disparities, expanding economic opportunity, and improving quality of life for tenants.”

« Today’s expansion of ‘Big Apple Connect’ represents another step towards fulfilling the promise of delivering an essential 21st-century service to public housing residents, » said NYCHA Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt. « Families, young people, and seniors across NYCHA campuses citywide will benefit greatly from the improved internet accessibility enabled through this public-private partnership, which will help immensely in moving the city and the authority towards ensuring digital equity for all. »

“The continued expansion of ‘Big Apple Connect’ is helping to realize Mayor Eric Adams’ vision to advance digital equity for all New Yorkers in an age-inclusive city,” said New York City Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez. “When older adults have access to the internet, they can sign up for the critical supports and benefits, explore workforce opportunities, and participate in online activities that keep them stay healthy and socially engaged. This is yet another important example of Mayor Adams’ deep commitment to enhancing the quality of life of the city’s older residents.”

‘Big Apple Connect’s’ expansion will reach 25 new developments in Manhattan, 20 in Brooklyn, 14 in the Bronx, 5 in Queens, and 3 in Staten Island. New Yorkers can view a full list of ‘Big Apple Connect’ eligible NYCHA developments online.
  
« Internet is a necessity for families in Bronx River Houses to improve our quality of life, » said Norma Saunders, tenant association president, Bronx River Houses. « At a time when a lot of residents are struggling with inflation, food insecurity, and child care expenses, ‘Big Apple Connect’ means residents no longer have to wonder if they can afford internet and cable TV. This program is a step in the right direction for our families, kids, and young adults, and I thank Mayor Adams for bringing it to Bronx River Houses. »  

‘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.

The city has entered into three-year agreements with Altice (Optimum) and Charter (Spectrum), which will collectively cover the majority of developments owned and managed by NYCHA. OTI is billed directly for all residents enrolled in ‘Big Apple Connect.’

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

“Optimum is committed to ensuring digital equity for all, and, as a founding member of the ‘Big Apple Connect’ public-private partnership, is proud to have partnered with the city to bring free high-speed Optimum internet and TV service to thousands of New York City families,” said Lee Schroeder, executive vice president, Government & Community Affairs, Altice USA/Optimum. “We commend New York City on developing this innovative and effective approach to bridging the digital divide and look forward to continuing to work with the city on this next phase of the program, which has the ability to deliver essential Optimum connectivity services to thousands more city residents starting today.”

“This is another landmark day for digital equity in New York City,” said Adam Ray, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Charter Communications. “By leveraging the robust networks and proven capacity of leading providers, the inaugural phase of Mayor Adams’ ‘Big Apple Connect’ has been a tremendous success in connecting New Yorkers. At Charter, we have been delivering Spectrum internet quickly and efficiently to NYCHA families, exceeding our service and marketing commitments. We stand ready to support this dramatic expansion of our partnership, which will bring high-speed broadband and TV to tens of thousands of additional families in the city and ensure every resident has access to the educational, economic, and social benefits broadband provides.”

This effort builds on OTI’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.

“Closing the digital divide is an essential step to ensuring communities have equal access to educational and economic opportunities,” said U.S Representative Jerrold Nadler. “NYCHA residents shouldn’t be forced to scramble to find free internet access to complete their homework, find employment, or connect with loved ones because of where they live. I’m proud to support the expansion of the ‘Big Apple Connect’ Program and encourage all of my constituents living in NYCHA developments to take advantage of this critical service.”

“Today, access to dependable broadband is a necessity for working families across the city that rely on the internet for work, school, and day-to-day life,” said U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez. “This expansion of Big Apple Connect will help close the digital divide and offer many New Yorkers living in NYCHA housing access to free and reliable Wi-Fi. I look forward to seeing this program continue to grow and help communities across the city connect to the internet.”

“In Congress, I have been proud to champion efforts to increase access to the internet including helping to create the Emergency Connectivity Fund that provided $7.1 billion dollars for schools and libraries to purchase internet devices and broadband services,” said U.S. Representative Grace Meng. “These include schools and libraries in Queens and throughout New York City, and I’m thrilled that even more New Yorkers can now receive internet access through Big Apple Connect including at NYCHA developments in my congressional district. We must continue doing all we can to close the digital divide.”

« Reliable and consistent access to devices and to the Internet remains essential for New York families,” said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat. “Expansion of the ‘Big Apple Connect’ program will help address the digital divide that many across our city face, especially our students and other vulnerable populations. I commend Mayor Adams for expanding internet and basic television access to 40,000 additional families across our city. Today’s announcement strengthens our city’s foundation and our efforts to ensure equity and inclusivity for all.”

“I commend Mayor Eric Adam and Chief Technology Officer Matt Fraser for expanding Big Apple Connect: free internet and basic cable TV service to additional residents of NYCHA,” said New York State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. “This expansion continues the commitment to decrease the digital divide and provide opportunities to New York City residents and particularly in Senate District 19. I look forward to the continued expansion to all New Yorkers who need access.”

« The past few years of on and off remote work have highlighted just how many people lack access to internet at home,” said New York State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton. “Digital equity is becoming increasingly important, as more and more schools and offices become permanently remote. Big Apple Connect is helping promote digital equity citywide, and I am happy that my constituents in the Richmond Terrace houses are now a part of this program. »

« We all saw throughout the course of the pandemic that lack of broadband access was a significant issue for low-income families,” said New York State Assemblymember Kenny Burgos. “The expansion of ‘Big Apple Connect’ is a major breakthrough for so many New Yorkers in need, especially in my own community. I look forward to seeing this essential program grow even further. »

« As we saw during the pandemic with remote work and education, internet connectivity is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity,” said New York State Assemblymember Brian A. Cunningham. “I applaud Mayor Adams and the administration for continuing to close the digital divide and ensuring more New Yorkers have access to broadband internet service at home. Like in Albany Houses, this expansion of Big Apple Connect will benefit the entire city by making us more connected to one another and the world.”

“The expansion of Big Apple Connect is an infusion of economic growth for NYCHA residents and our entire city,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “Access to high speed internet increases household income by $2,100 annually. The benefits extend to every New Yorker: a 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration increases GDP by 1.2%. Beyond the economic benefits, we learned during the pandemic that broadband is a necessity for telecommuting, speaking with loved ones, job searches, telehealth appointments, online classes, and innumerable other things. Bringing this basic necessity to NYCHA residents shows Mayor Adams’ commitment to a city that addresses the welfare of all New Yorkers.”

« Families living in NYCHA developments shouldn’t have to decide between putting food on the table and providing a reliable internet connection, » said New York State Assemblymember Helene Weinstein. « Today, when the success of our children is dependent on technological literacy, internet access and a firm grasp on current events, I applaud New York City for designating this access a right and not a privilege. »

 “The ability to access a reliable, affordable and an easy to navigate internet provider is essential to living in today’s digital world,” said New York State Assemblymember John Zaccaro, Jr.
“The Big Apple Connect municipal broadband program championed by Mayor Adams and his administration does that and more. I applaud today’s announcement to expand the Big Apple Connect program to include up to 40,000 NYCHA households throughout the Bronx and the City of New York.”

“With city agencies and news moving towards online information, more and more people rely on the internet to receive vital updates and services,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. “By expanding ‘Big Apple Connect,’ Mayor Adams and Chief Technology Officer Matt Fraser will increase reliable internet access for tens of thousands of New Yorkers and ensure that NYCHA residents can connect with the programs they need to thrive.”

« Reliable access to broadband is an essential part of daily living for all New Yorkers, » said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. « Through the expansion of Big Apple Connect, residents in over 200 NYCHA developments will now be able to access fast and reliable internet at no cost. These are much-needed investments to help increase accessibility throughout our city by helping NYCHA residents. I encourage those in eligible developments to sign up for this service. »

“Access to internet is a lifeline for New Yorkers, connecting people and families with educational resources, job opportunities, social services, and more,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m so thrilled that 20 more NYCHA developments in Brooklyn will finally have free internet and basic cable TV within reach, thanks to Mayor Adams and Chief Technology Officer Matt Fraser’s expansion of ‘Big Apple Connect.’ I look forward to continuing to work together to close the digital divide once and for all, in every corner of my borough and this city.”

« Mayor Adams is proving that we not only have the resources to close the access gap and level the technological playing field for all New Yorkers, but the will to get it done, » said New York City Councilmember Shaun Abreu. « Hundreds of thousands of residents in NYCHA developments will now have speedy access to internet and cable, which they can use to connect with loved ones, apply for jobs and college, and find lifesaving information. This is huge! »

« Reliable access to internet is not an option but a necessity, » said New York City Councilmember Alexa Avilés. « After our collective experience during the pandemic, it cannot be any more clear that we rely on the internet as a public utility that affords us the opportunity to both learn and work. Expanding free, reliable internet access to 40,000 new NYCHA households through Big Apple Connect is something to celebrate. Currently, our internet access points are predicated on an exploitative, for-profit system that prioritizes those that are able to pay the most and our working class, seniors, and public housing residents and children are left out. I look forward to working with NYCHA, the administration, and all partners to ensure this program continues to expand until all New Yorkers, particularly NYCHA residents, get connected and we achieve digital equity. This is a matter of social, economic, and racial justice.”

« Today’s announcement about the expansion of Big Apple Connect is an exciting one to be part of,” said New York City Councilmember Amanda Farías. “Free broadband will now be available at 25 additional NYCHA campuses, including those in Bronx River and Castle Hill in CD18. I was excited to work on this rollout into our NYCHA’s last year and I’m proud to see it expanded because we understand that Wi-Fi is a necessity for all New Yorkers- especially our low-income families. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed just how essential broadband access is, yet there are still thousands of New Yorkers who remain disconnected. Thank you, Mayor Eric Adams, for expanding this program across our city, but especially here in my district and the Bronx. I look forward to continuing to work together on Big Apple Connect’s expansion to benefit all New Yorkers. »

“Programs like ‘Big Apple Connect’ have supported our communities to bridge the gap and ensure internet service is available to New Yorkers across the city,” said New York City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez. “I often meet seniors and families in my community that did not have internet due to the rising service rates, and this program helped to alleviate any stress they may have experienced. “When we create programs that establish equity in technology, we are supporting the community at large. I look forward to seeing this program flourish and New Yorkers take advantage of this incredible service.”

“As our world becomes a more technologically driven society, inequitable access to internet services has become one of the great sociological dividing lines,” said New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca. “The pandemic noticeably highlighted this as millions of New Yorkers were left without access to remote schooling, telehealth appointments, or a way to virtually see their loved ones. It is why I called for more government aid to bridge this gap at our public housing developments, city shelters, and public streets during the height of the pandemic. I thank Mayor Adams and CTO Fraser for their pledge to close this divide with the implementation of Big Apple Connect, and applaud them for continuing expansion to other NYCHA developments to ensure no one gets left behind.”

“My office spent last summer registering our neighbors at Queensbridge Houses, Ravenswood Houses, and Woodside Houses for free WiFi. Now with Big Apple Connect, all of Council District 26 NYCHA neighbors will have guaranteed access to free high-speed internet, and cable TV,” said New York City Councilmember Julie Won. “These past few years have proven that internet access is a necessity, not a luxury, and we are now one step closer to closing the digital divide. This investment will ensure that all my neighbors living in over 6,600 NYCHA units in my district can learn and work remotely, access online government services, and stay connected to the digital world.”

“BRIC applauds Mayor Adams and his administration’s Big Apple Connect program, which will deliver essential broadband service to NYCHA residents, » said Wes Jackson, president, BRIC Arts and Media. « Through our community engagement work, BRIC has a long history of serving and working alongside our friends and neighbors in NYCHA housing. This initiative will enable us to take that relationship to the next level by developing a media literacy pipeline and providing residents with tools and resources to grow their skills not only as artists and creatives but as positive members of the community. »

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