Wi-Fi is the workhorse of the Internet. Currently Wi-Fi carries 60% to 80% of all broadband data traffic on smartphones, laptops, and other mobile devices, far more than cellular networks do. But a new technology is threatening the effectiveness of Wi-Fi – and its ability to create connectivity for all.
Wi-Fi makes wireless Internet access far more available, fast, and affordable – particularly for youth, low-income, and minority populations. The City’s vision of Wi-Fi is one of a “network of networks:”
- CityBridge’s LinkNYC franchise will soon replace over 7,500 pay phones across the five boroughs with Wi-Fi hotspot kiosks
- New York City’s Economic Development Corporation has built several Wi-Fi corridors in commercial and industrial areas and will soon do the same in Hurricane Sandy-impacted areas via its RISE : NYC resiliency initiative
- The City’s Business Improvement Districts and a web of public and private entities are supplying free public Wi-Fi in Chelsea, Harlem, downtown Manhattan, and downtown Brooklyn, and other neighborhoods across NYC
- The Mayor’s Office is committing funds to install Wi-Fi networks in public housing developments; the MTA is putting wireless access into subway stations; and the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens Public Library systems, as well as the Parks Department, are providing Wi-Fi hotspots across the city
All of that coverage, though, may be at risk due to a plan by many cellular carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile to begin offloading data traffic onto the unlicensed frequencies of our public airwaves – on which Wi-Fi depends – to augment the licensed spectrum they currently use. The interference could slow or even shut down public Wi-Fi systems, shrinking access, undermining digital equity, and scrapping hundreds of millions of dollars marked for improving the social, digital, and economic equity of NYC.
Join New America for a conversation on the suite of initiatives that keep city systems and residents connected, and the forces that threaten to block their visions for equitable governance.
Introduction: Wi-Fi as a public commons
Director, Wireless Future Project, Open Technology Institute at New America
Keynote: New York – Wi-Fi for all
Counsel to the Mayor, City of New York
Vice President, NYC Economic Development Corporation
Chief Innovation Officer, Intersection
CEO and Director of Engineering, CTC Technology & Energy
Director of Product Marketing & Government Affairs, Broadcom
Acting Director, Resilient Communities Program, New America