Details on NYC Cable Franchise Agreements with "Subscriber" Wi-Fi Details

We’ve gotten the Press Briefing Documents from DoITT regarding the Cable Franchise Negotiations for NYC. Obviously Wi-Fi is only one part of what they negotiated, and there’s a lot of self-congratulations in these docs, but now everyone can read for themselves.

We think the Wi-Fi concessions are really pretty weak, but are very happy that all the work we’ve done over the past 10 years has resulted in them even being on the table.

What we’d really like to see is that $10 million be put into a fund that can let local organizations, like BIDs, “Friends of” groups, and others that help out individual parks can use to bring 24/7/365 Free Wi-Fi to those parks. We’ve long said (and told DoITT, NYC EDC, and the Parks Department) that the biggest thing lacking for these local groups is funding for such projects.

Anyway, here are the docs:

DoITT Cable Franchise Key Accomplishments http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf

Cable Franchise Media Briefing http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf

NY Cable Firms Provide Limited Park Wi-Fi as Part of Franchise Renewal?

Our friends at Wi-Fi Net News are reporting (via NY Daily News) that the New York City Government (Bloomberg et. al.) and DoITT (the NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications) have completed a behind closed doors negotiation with Time Warner Cable and Cablevision to give away our free Wi-Fi in NYC Parks to the cableco’s in exchange for their franchise renewal.

We don’t have all the details yet, but according to the NY Daily News, NYC residents and visitors can sign up for 3 10-minute sessions per month of Wi-Fi internet access in parks. This isn’t Free Wi-Fi, like NYCwireless, the Downtown Alliance, and others provide, since you need to pay $0.99/day after you use up your 10-minute sessions.

As a tax-paying resident of NYC, I’m personally offended that DoITT would allow a CableCo to make money off of our tax-funded parks. TWC had revenue of $17.9 billion in 2009, and they are paying part of $10 million to light up NYC parks. That’s less than 0.05% of their revenue. Meanwhile, they stand to make $10’s of millions of dollars per year providing this service. (Central Park gets about 25m visitors per year, and if we ignore all other parks, and figure that fewer than half of those visitors buy one day of internet service, we get $0.99 x 10 million visitors = $10m.)

This seems to be DoITT selling out NYC residents and tax-payers. And we shouldn’t be surprised considering how DoITT and the NYC government have been in the telco’s/cableco’s back pocket for years.

A few more notes:

  1. If its not 24/7 Free, its not Free Wi-Fi. Period. This is clearly not “Free Wi-Fi” but rather government sanctioned subscription Wi-Fi.
  2. That DoITT released this on primary day was a clear attempt to bury this news because it knew it was doing wrong by residents of NYC.
  3. The previous Park Wi-Fi program with WiFiSalon drove that company out of business. See our post: Wi-Fi Salon Shuts Down
  4. What happened to DoITT’s plan to offer a more open and sustainable park Wi-Fi program? They put out an RFI last year (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doitt/html/miscs/rfiwifi.shtml), and we (NYCwireless) had quite a lot to say about it (see Response to City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces (DoITT RFI) and Our Take: NYC RFI on “City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces”). But at least they were trying to ask the right questions…
  5. And what of security and privacy issues? Isn’t this deal like the city saying that we all should be giving our personal and billing information to TWC and Cablevision? What sort of protection has the city negotiated on our behalf?

Only time will tell if DoITT and the NYC Government decide to take the correct path and release an RFP for Free Park Wi-Fi as they indicated they would last year. If they don’t, we’re going to continue to see failure and lack of leadership from the NYC Park Wi-Fi program.

But fear not, NYCwireless will still be here and we’ll still be providing real Free Wi-Fi to all city residents and visitors.