When now-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ran for office, he touted a five-year proposal expanding the city’s technology infrastructure in order to extend universal and high-quality Internet access to all households within the city limits. On April 9, his administration announced a new round of initiatives to move that vision closer to reality.
“I think it’s pretty well recognized that if you don’t have Internet access today, it’s very difficult to participate in today’s economy,” Minerva Tantoco, NYC’s chief technology officer, told BuzzFeed News. In “your day-to-day life, Internet access has become as basic as electricity in your home. Try and imagine if you were someone who is trying to find a job without a way to apply for a job online or fix your resume.”
The administration created and filled two new positions in city government to work directly on broadband. Alphonso Jenkins, a former employee at broadband, IP and cloud networking company Alcatel-Lucent, will begin work as the city’s deputy commissioner for telecommunications planning at the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and Joshua Breitbart, a former field operations director at the New America Foundation, will serve as a special broadband adviser to the mayor.
The city also announced an open call for proposals and suggestions on how to provide affordable and high-quality broadband to underserved communities. The call will last until June 30 and seeks input from tech companies, entrepreneurs, small Internet service providers and other parties to weigh in on how the city can use existing infrastructure and new technologies to accomplish the universal broadband dream. The proposals will be reviewed by the Broadband Task Force, which was announced last year.
“We recognized we needed a multidisciplinary group of people,” Maya Wiley, a counsel to the mayor, said. “We need people who understand technology, we need people who understand how projects get done and financed and we need people who know how to get it off the ground in low income communities.”