Tag Archives: New York City

Testimony to the New York City Broadband Advisory Committee

On December 12, 2007, I gave the following testimony to the New York City Council Broadband Advisory Committee. You can download a PDF version for printing as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Broadband Advisory Committee and Members and Staff of the New York City Council, I would like to thank you for inviting me here today to provide my testimony and provide what I hope is useful guidance on the issue of broadband availability and uptake in New York City. I hope to speak to you today about two things: one, about NYCwireless as an organization and the work that we do, and two, about the vision that we share for building a ubiquitous, affordable high-speed internet access infrastructure that will become a shining example of a truly 21st century city.

As an organization, we were founded in early 2001 by some enterprising technology enthusiasts who, in their spare time, wondered about how they could use this new technology called 802.11 and share it with their neighbors. They took an access point and hung it out their window, to see if they could receive a signal on their laptop from next door. Upon successfully connecting to their home internet connection from their neighbor’s place, they began to think big, about what would happen if more people on their block had Wi-Fi access points, and everyone that had a laptop could connect with each other via wireless signals and communicate in ways that were previously unimaginable.

Since those early days, we’ve grown as an organization. We were one of the inventors of the phenomena of Community Wireless. We were the first group to light up a public space at Tompkins Square park. We assisted struggling software companies regain access to the internet in downtown Manhattan after 9/11. We were the first to bring public Wi-Fi to the forefront when we lit up Bryant Park in 2002, and we continue to this day to build free Wi-Fi in city parks and public spaces.
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NYCwireless Executive Director tops Silicon Alley 100: People's Choice List

Our own Dana Spiegel was just voted the #1 People’s Choice on the Silicon Alley 100 List of the most influential and important people in the New York digital community.

Open wireless Internet access provides crucial support for New York City’s digital community — bloggers, freelancers, artists, geeks, serial entrepreneurs, and everybody else.

Congrats Dana for the recognition of your efforts and successes!

NYC Broadband Advisory Committee Public Hearing in Manhattan

On Wednesday, December 12th, 2007 from 1-4pm, the NYC Broadband Advisory Committee will be holding a meeting at the Manhattan School of Music, Greenfield Hall, 120 Claremont Avenue at 122 Street, New York, NY 10027 If you live or work in Manhattan, you should attend this meeting. NYCwireless will be there, representing our work building free, public Wi-Fi.

From Kunal Malhotra, Director of Legislation & Budget, Office of Council Member Gale A. Brewer:

Coming on the heels of successful public hearings in the Bronx and Brooklyn where hundreds of people attended, the New York City Broadband Advisory Committee will hear from policy experts and Manhattan residents and business people in a Public Meeting of the Broadband Advisory Committee in Manhattan. During this official hearing on the borough’s Broadband status, the City Council seeks to answer the following questions: How important is affordable Broadband to businesses and to under-served communities? How will high-speed Internet connections improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers and their families?

“New York is the most dynamic city in the world. But when it comes to the Internet, we’re working to catch up to other jurisdictions,” said Council Member Brewer, Chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Technology in Government. Brewer sponsored Local Law 126, which created the NYC Broadband Advisory Committee. “I am excited to work with the Mayor’s Office in making New York a place where you don’t have to pay to go slow. We need affordable high-speed Internet connections to bring in jobs, help schools, and make the city safer.”

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 27% of American households are still not using the Internet at all and “those with less education, those with lower household incomes, and Americans age 65 and older are less likely to have embraced broadband than those who are younger and have higher socio-economic status.” Seeking to address these same imbalances, Broadband Advisory Committee Chairperson, Shaun Belle, and CEO of Mount Hope Housing Company said, “Understanding the challenges to Broadband connectivity for the average New Yorker is a primary focus of the Broadband Advisory Committee; exploring and potentially implementing solutions to address these challenges will be the basis of our future planning.”

Andrew Rasiej, an Advisory Committee Member and the Founder of the Personal Democracy Forum and MOUSE said, “These hearings are critical to focusing broad political attention and building consensus for the need to guarantee all New Yorkers an opportunity to participate in the 21st Century economy.”

The New York Broadband Advisory Committee was created by Local Law 126, a bill sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer. The purpose of the Committee is to advise the Mayor and the City Council on how to bring affordable high-speed Internet connection to all New York City residents, nonprofit organizations and businesses. The public hearing in Manhattan is the third in a series of five being convened in every borough. Queens and Staten Island hearings are scheduled for early 2008.

November Meeting: Andrew Rasiej!! Wed Nov 30th at 7:15 PM

This Wednesday, November 30th, 2005 at 7:15pm

568 Broadway at Prince St, NE corner
Suite 404
New York, NY 10012
(Please note: Bway.net’s offices are still under construction — we apologize in advance for our appearance. Also, everybody will need to sign-in in the lobby.)


  1. General update on projects by Board members
  2. Andrew Rasiej: The Future of Public Wifi — As a recent candidate for NYC Public Advocate office, Andrew made free public wifi a central theme of his “Connecting NYC” campaign. He will discuss the obstacles and opportunities for public access to wireless infrastructure — followed by an extended Q&A session.
  3. Workshop breakout sessions: small group discussions from novice to advanced questions

More about Andrew Rasiej

Although he didn’t win, Andrew Rasiej’s campaign was successful in bringing tremendous attention to the issue of public wireless infrastructure, including this glowing column by Tom Friedman in the NY Times.

Andrew Rasiej (pronounced rah-SHAY) is a community activist and successful business leader who has spent much of his life connecting people, turning ideas into action, solving problems, and making change. In other words, he has long been an advocate for New York and New Yorkers.

Andrew Rasiej’s bio

Bruce Fein's New York Times Letter to the Editor

Bruce Fein, a former general counsel for the FCC under President Reagan, published a letter to the editor in today’s New York Times. He claims that Nicholas D. Kristof’s recent column “wrongly chastises New York for neglecting to emulate the citywide wireless networks in rural Oregon” due to far greater cost of deploying Wi-Fi in populated urban areas.

While Mr. Fein is correct in stating that Wi-Fi in New York would be more costly than in, say, Philadelphia (as I have written previously in this blog 1, 2), his claim that it would cost $1 billion is way off the mark. Yes, New York City recently put out an RFP for a $1 billion wireless network for police, fire, and emergency rescue use. This network is intended to be private and secure, and won’t likely use Wi-Fi (it certainly won’t use Wi-Fi in the normal 802.11a/b/g bands).

From where is Mr. Fein getting his $1 billion figure? According to JupiterResearch, the cost of building and maintaining a municipal wireless network is $150,000 per square mile over five years. Sascha Meinrath of CUWiN claims that a network with a density of 142 nodes per square mile would cost about $49,700. If we take these as a low and a high estimate, we wind up with a total cost for NYC between $15 million and $50 million. Even if we triple the JupiterResearch cost estimates, we don’t come even close to Mr. Fein’s number.

Furthermore, Mr. Fein’s claim that such a network would be entirely Wi-Fi is mis-informed. Such a network should use whatever wireless and wired technologies are appropriate. Wi-Fi happens to be the best solution for getting internet access over the “last 100 yards”. As for competition, New York could be the city that encourages the most R&D in wireless, if only the City created the right environment, perhaps by opening up more lightpole franchises at an affordable rate.

All of this doesn’t address the most important issue: only about 35% of New Yorkers have broadband, and only 10% of low-income families in New York City have broadband. And this is the most connected city in the country! We should be demanding that the Mayor and everyone else in our City Government address this situation! Wi-Fi, WiMax, Wi-whatever—wireline or wireless—it doesn’t matter. In fact, any viable solution will make use of all of these technologies, as well as some others that aren’t even released yet.

We shouldn’t look at this problem as being so large and costly that we can’t address it. We can start small. NYCwireless and its partners have brought free Wi-Fi to many City parks and other public spaces. And we continue to bring public Wi-Fi to low income buildings and other neighborhoods. Working together, we (and every single New Yorker) can make a difference.