Using the Public Airwaves to Connect and Strengthen Communities in New York City

NYCwireless is a non-profit organization that advocates and enables the growth of free, public wireless Internet access in New York City and surrounding areas. NYCwireless, founded in 2001, is an all-volunteer organization with seven (7) board members, five (5) special interest working groups and serves thousands of individuals throughout the New York City metro area.

Among U.S. cities, New York has been a hotspot of activity with respect the development and use of public wireless access to the high-speed (or broadband) Internet. NYCwireless has been leading that movement. Originally started as an informal group of wireless technology enthusiasts, NYCwireless has grown into a multi-faceted organization that helps individuals and communities all across New York City to use wireless technology to provide free, public Internet access.

Over the past several years, NYCwireless has built free, public wireless networks in over ten New York City parks and open spaces through partnerships with local parks organizations such as the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation and business improvement districts such as the Alliance for Downtown New York. These include networks in Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Wagner Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Jackson Square Park, Union Square Park (in partnership with commercial wireless Internet provider TowerStream), Stuyvesant Cove Park (the first fully solar powered hotspot in New York), Tompkins Square Park, Bowling Green Park, City Hall Park, the South Street Seaport, the Winter Garden, the Atrium at 60 Wall Street, Stone Street, Wall Street Park, and the Vietnam Veterans Plaza, among others. In addition, the organization has created community engagement programs that take advantage of wireless networks in Manhattan, such as our annual wireless arts festival, Spectropolis (http://www.spectropolis.info).

Following the success free, public wireless Internet access in New York City parks, NYCwireless has expanded its mission to including assisting underserved communities in getting affordable Internet access. For example, NYCwireless worked with Community Access, a non-profit housing organization, to train volunteers and building residents to build and maintain wireless networks in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. The networks will provide more than 50 residents per building with private, high-speed connections.

Currently, NYCwireless is using free, open-source software developed by community wireless groups around the world including the Champaign-Urbana Wireless Network, Île Sans Fil (Montreal), Freifunk (Berlin), and LondonWireless to connect communities in large sections of New York City to the Internet.

Finally, NYCwireless has built up a reputation as an advocate of the public interest by testifying regularly at New York City Council Technology in Government Committee hearings, filing comments on policy issues related to broadband and telecommunications issues with the Federal Communications Commission, and representing community wireless organizations nationwide on the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee as of March 2005. The organization is also helping to coordinate national efforts to promote affordable public wireless Internet access through collaborations with Free Press, the Consumer’s Union, and the Alliance for Community Networking.


  • President and Executive Director – Dana Spiegel
  • Treasurer – Ben Serebin
  • Secretary – Laura Forlano

Bringing Wi-Fi to Public Spaces in NYC

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