NYCwireless’ testimony before the New York City Council’s Technology in Government Committee at December 12 hearing in support of Int. No. 625-A, a local law to establish a permanent broadband advisory committee in order to assess the feasibility of using municipal resources to facilitate universal access to broadband technologies and telecommunications and information services in New York.
Good afternoon. My name is Laura Forlano and I am pleased to be here today to testify before the New York City Council’s Technology in Government Committee on behalf of NYCwireless, a non-profit organization that advocates for and enables the growth of free, public wireless networks, in support of Int. No. 625-A, a local law to establish a permanent broadband advisory committee in order to assess the feasibility of using municipal resources to facilitate universal access to broadband technologies and telecommunications and information services in New York.
Over the past four years, NYCwireless has been active in the deployment of free, public wireless networks in over ten New York City parks and open spaces through partnerships with local parks organizations and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). NYCwireless has played an invaluable role in establishing the idea of public hotspots within public spaces within a City. Indeed, NYCwireless’ groundbreaking ideas and work first started this movement. By working in 2001 with local businesses, NYCwireless established Tompkins Square Park as the first Wireless Park in New York City. In 2002, NYCwireless brought this idea to the Bryant Park Conservancy, and was successful in creating the City’s and the Nation’s most visible and popular Wireless Park. We have also created community engagement programs that take advantage of wireless networks in Manhattan, such as our wireless arts festival, Spectropolis. NYCwireless is an all-volunteer organization with seven (7) board members, five (5) special interest working groups and approximately sixty (60) active members.
As a small non-profit organization that relies on volunteers to do its work, NYCwireless has confronted the difficulty of bringing wireless broadband projects to New Yorkers first-hand for a number of reasons. The technology itself is one of the simpler parts of the equation. Much more difficult are the identification of projects that address critical socio-economic problems and improve the lives of New Yorkers, the creation of an overarching vision for our projects and the development of a strategy to implement our vision using the latest technologies.
We believe that a similar challenge is facing the city of New York with regards to the future of broadband technology. Over the past two years, we have followed the Technology in Government Committee’s oversight hearings with great interest and believe that the establishment of a permanent broadband advisory committee is one positive step towards creating the necessary comprehensive vision and holistic strategy necessary for improving the socio-economic future of New York by using cutting-edge technologies and mobilizing community resources.
We believe that the advisory committee can play a leading role in increasing competition in the market for broadband provision and insuring the availability of affordable broadband options for small businesses, non-profit organizations and under-served areas. We believe that this problem can only be solved by the active involvement of municipal government in stimulating competition in telecommunication infrastructure. Competition can come in the form of municipally owned open access telecommunication infrastructure (such as the Philadelphia project), non-profit projects (such as NYCwireless, BIDs, parks organizations) or private sector initiatives.
With respect to the specifics of Int. No. 625-A, we would like to urge that “municipal resources” be interpreted broadly to include a wide range of the city’s resources such as physical assets (light poles, rooftops), financial assets, and, most importantly, human assets such as community and non-profit organizations. Community organizations such as NYCwireless can play an even greater role in improving New York’s socio-economic future from the bottom-up with the support of a clear vision, a comprehensive strategy and available municipal resources.
NYCwireless looks forward to working with the Technology in Government committee, city agencies, other non-profit organizations and the private sector in order to improve the lives of all New Yorkers using the best available technologies to address our city’s socio-economic needs and challenges. Thus, we urge that the City Council pass Int. No. 625-A to establish a permanent broadband advisory committee. Thank you very much.