Tag Archives: Parks

Response to City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces (DoITT RFI)

NYCwireless submitted this response to the DoITT RFI City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces” (PIN: 85809RFI0045) [PDF].

Download PDF Version

RFI Response to City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces

Prepared by:

Dana Spiegel, Executive Director, NYCwireless
Rob Kelley and Anthony Townsend, Executive Board Members

Overview

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. Founded in 2001, NYCwireless serves thousands of individuals throughout the New York City metro area through the dozens of hotspots installed in NYC Parks, Public Spaces, and Affordable Housing Buildings.

Over the past several years, NYCwireless has built free, public wireless networks in dozens of New York City parks and open spaces through partnerships with local organizations such as the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation and Madison Square Park Conservancy and business improvement districts such as the Alliance for Downtown New York. These include hotspots in Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Wagner Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Jackson Square Park, 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.

NYCwireless also assists under-served communities in getting affordable internet access. NYCwireless works with Dunn Development Corporation and 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 provide 8 buildings with more than 50 residents per building with private, high-speed wireless connections.

According to a survey by NYCwireless Board Member Laura Forlano, Wi-Fi is a factor in attracting people to specific locations throughout the city for 70% of those surveyed. These findings have potential implications for economic development and support the rationale that WiFi may enable commerce and productivity that would not have occurred otherwise. For example, one respondent commutes 20 minutes from Queens to use the Bryant Park wireless network on weekends in order to work on his food and wine website outside rather than at home.

At NYCwireless, we’ve worked with many local leaders. Some of them are BIDs like the Downtown Alliance or public benefit corporations like the Battery Park City Authority. Some are local developers, like the one we’re working with in the West Village who transformed a park and part of a neighborhood from being a place for homeless people to being a place for families and children. These local leaders have transformed their communities, and helped us bring internet to the people. Unfortunately so many more come to us with visions of helping out their neighborhood, but don’t have the funds to make it happen. While NYCwireless provides a very low cost option for building public Wi-Fi, its not without installation and maintenance cost. And many of the local leaders we’ve spoken to have no current means to get the funding they need to build and create local broadband. In speaking with them, we know that with just enough funding, these people too could change their communities, and bring whole neighborhoods online. Funding must be injected into local communities in order to provide resources for these leaders to do their work.
Continue reading Response to City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces (DoITT RFI)

Our Take: NYC RFI on "City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces"

Earlier today (Wednesday) DoITT released an RFI for “City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces” (PIN: 85809RFI0045). I’ve had a chance to review the RFI, and NYCwireless will be responding to it, but I wanted to provide a summary for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read through it yet.

Basically, the City wants to light up more Parks, and is looking for ways to make this happen. We’ve provided lots of suggestions both on and off the record [1, 2, 3], and some of what we’ve said (and certainly what we’ve successfully done) has started to seep through. We should be celebrating that the City is asking questions first before issuing a blanket RFP and they seem to have learned a bit after being burned twice before by the Parks Departments previous RFPs, but the jury is still out on how progressive their ultimate plan will be. This RFI represents baby steps in the right direction, though there’s still a long road ahead for those of us that want to see free Wi-Fi in all city parks and public spaces.

The (Mostly) Good

  • DoITT seems to recognize the value in Wi-Fi in parks and public spaces, and indicates that they are clearly aware of the work that organizations other than the Parks Department have done to grow free public Wi-Fi.
  • DoITT is open to how they should organize any public-space Wi-Fi initiative, though there are still funding issues (see below).
  • More parks are being added to the list of possible Parks Department sanctioned free Wi-Fi, however this does beg the question about how parks not on the “official” list are going to be able to get service.
  • The City wants to work with more BIDs in offering free Wi-Fi, though they don’t acknowledge the fact that the BIDs and other organizations that have created free Wi-Fi hotspots have done so without much involvement by the Parks Department, and often in spite of any blockades the Parks Department has put up.
  • DoITT is potentially open to other business models for building Wi-Fi hotspots, though as indicated below (and as I have been saying for a number of years), there aren’t any viable ones where businesses can independently fund the buildout and maintenance.
  • The City is willing to provide both signage and some publicity for the Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • The City will provide free access and use of city-owned property to facilitate the installation of equipment.
  • DoITT seems open to reducing insurance requirements for running a hotspot, but even this doesn’t go far enough. We have hotspots where there is NO equipment on park property at all (its on a neighboring building rooftop). Why such installation strategies should require ANY general or personal liability insurance is a mystery (we do carry liability insurance for equipment installation and maintenance).
  • Any submissions must be mostly non-proprietary, which means that we should all be able to read whatever companies submit for the RFI (we will publish our submission for all to read on this site). DoITT should go one step further and commit to actually publishing all submissions, so we don’t have to file Freedom of Information Law requests just to get them.

The Bad

  • DoITT talks a lot about “other comparable wireless Internet service” versus Wi-Fi. In the long term, I suppose its important to recognize that laptops and mobile devices may ship with newer wireless standards, but we’re quite a number of years off from this happening, and for the forseeable future, Wi-Fi is it–Apple introduced Wi-Fi on laptops 10 years ago, and those laptops are still compatible with today’s Wi-Fi networks.
  • Access to city-owned property isn’t the biggest issue in getting Wi-Fi deployed. Getting reasonably fast internet access lines (or WiMax uplinks) is the biggest problem. NYCwireless has had tremendous success rapidly deploying Wi-Fi equipment on building rooftops and even nearby businesses, but we (and WiFiSalon as well) have spent countless, fruitless hours getting internet lines from Verizon. In a recent example, it took over 4 months to get internet service to Wagner Park, even though our gear was installed within a month of signing a contract.
  • DoITT is looking mostly for one or a few companies to step up and do all the work. We’ve long talked about how the City can take a grass-roots approach to getting local parks and public spaces lit up, but for the most part, DoITT is focussing only on the biggest and most prominent locations. This is unfortunate, since the people in lower income and further afield areas are often the ones who benefit the most from such initiatives, but they seem to be mostly left out of this party.

The Ugly

DoITT seems mostly steadfast in their insistence (as the Parks Department has been in the past) that no City funds should be spent on any buildout or maintenance of hotspots. This is still a really big sticking point: The first Parks RFP required that a concessionaire pay significant money to the Parks department, and the second Parks RFP required that a concessionaire pay some proposed amount of money to the Parks department.

There have been only a handful of interested companies (we offered to pay $1), and the WiFiSalon, the only concessionaire that paid any fees was driven out of business by that requirement. Ad revenue is negligible since such networks see a fraction of the impressions that even a second-tier blog sees, and sponsorship dollars are only available to the most prominent parks like Madison Square Park and Bryant Park, and such deals are done only through whole-park sponsorship, not sponsorship of just the Wi-Fi network.

As I’ve said many times before and as the industry has seen countless times, Ad-based business models are unsustainable for individual hotspots and even reasonable sized hotspot networks. If DoITT and the City want to really ensure that free public Wi-Fi should be made available, and that locations other than the most highly-trafficked and well-to-do are served, they need to step up and offer alternative funding models.

One thing to consider is that the companies that can do the installation and maintenance of high-quality outdoor hotspots (there are few) don’t have big advertising or sales teams to make them self-funding. These are two orthogonal specialties and forcing a single company to be capable of both severely limits the applicant pool and threatens the business viability of any participating company. NYCwireless has been successful because we provide all of the back-end technical know how and support for free public Wi-Fi hotspots. We are paid by our partners (BIDs and others) to perform this service, and they do the money raising since that’s what they are good at.

NYCwireless Announces New Hotspot in Wagner Park

We’re very excited to announce the availability of our newest hotspot in Wagner Park at the south end of Battery Park City. This hotspot is a partnership with the Battery Park City Authority, and we hope will be just the first of multiple hotspots throughout Battery Park City.

Take a trip down to Wagner Park! It has one of the most beautiful views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

You can see photos of the hotspot on Flickr.

Wagner Park Gets Hotter With Wi-Fi

NYCwireless Comes to Battery Park City

NEW YORK, NY, April 24, 2008 — Battery Park City Authority’s already hot Wagner Park is becoming even hotter with the introduction of free Wi-Fi service which was introduced this past fall.

The wireless service will be available from Pier A in Lower Manhattan, up Battery Park City’s promenade, to 1st Place.

“We are attracting as many laptops as we are sun bathers, so it seemed like a natural service to offer our residents and visitors,” said James Gill, Chairman of the Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority. “Public parks are become increasingly wireless friendly, and given how extraordinarily popular Wagner Park is, we needed to keep up with the times.”

Chairman Gill predicted that based upon how successful and popular the program is already, that Battery Park City would likely expand it to its other parks and public spaces. “From out green technology, state of the art parks, and our widely admired public art, Battery Park City has always been on the cutting edge of design and technology. This service is simply a natural progression of that mission,” said Gill.

The wireless service is provided by NYCwireless, a not-for-profit that builds and helps bring free public Wi-Fi networks to City public spaces.

“We are immensely proud and thrilled to be able to work with Battery Park City Authority and light up this wonderful park,” said Dana Spiegel, Executive Director of NYCwireless. “Wagner Park is one of the great New York City views, and instead of being cooped up in the office you can enjoy it and still stay connected.”

The broadband network set up by NYCwireless is free for anyone to use. Anyone can get a free account by connecting to the Wagner Park hotspot (or any other NYCwireless hotspots) and signing up with a valid email address. The hotspot will feature local information for park visitors to learn about the area and events at the park.

About The Battery Park City Authority

The Battery Park City Authority is a public benefit corporation created by the New York State Legislature in 1968 to develop a 92-acre site at the southwestern tip of Lower Manhattan. Parcels are leased to developers who build in accordance with BPCA guidelines, which now incorporate green provisions mandating state-of-the-art environmental specifications to maximize energy efficiency and minimize water usage, among other provisions.

About NYCwireless

NYCwireless (http://www.nycwireless.net) 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 many active members in the New York metropolitan area, across the United States of America, and around the world. In partnership with city parks organizations, business improvement districts and local non-profit organizations, NYCwireless has built free, public wireless hotspots at 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, and the Winter Garden, among others. In addition, NYCwireless worked with Community Access to build free wireless networks in three NYCHA-licensed affordable housing residences. NYCwireless also served as a member of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee.

June Meeting: Parks 2006 Roundup (Wed 6/28)

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006 at 7:15pm

Bway.net
568 Broadway at Prince St, NE corner
Suite 404
New York, NY 10012
(lobby sign-in required)

Agenda

NYCwireless Parks 2006 — a round-up of our various projects in process and completed, including:

  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Stuyvesant Cove Park
  • Madison Square Park
  • Dag Hammarskjold Plaza

Also updates on SuperNode, FON, lots more…