May 2, 2016

Fast and Free: New York’s Vision for Public Wi-Fi Everywhere

Location: Mainstage

2:30pm - 4:30pm EDT

fast and free
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
Michael Calabrese
Director, Wireless Future Project, Open Technology Institute at New America

Keynote: New York – Wi-Fi for all
Maya Wiley
Counsel to the Mayor, City of New York

Panel discussion
Dmytro Pokhylko
Vice President, NYC Economic Development Corporation

Colin O’Donnell
Chief Innovation Officer, Intersection

Andrew Afflerbach
CEO and Director of Engineering, CTC Technology & Energy

Chris Szymanski
Director of Product Marketing & Government Affairs, Broadcom

Greta Byrum
Acting Director, Resilient Communities Program, New America

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