Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Bloomberg Announces Largest U.S. Outdoor Public WiFi Network in Harlem

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, December 10 2013

Rachel Haot, Geoffrey Canada, Rahul Merchant, Mayor Bloomberg & Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman making the announcement (Mayor/Flickr)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the launch of the country's largest continuous outdoor free public WiFi network in Harlem Tuesday afternoon. The outdoor network, which will cover 95 city blocks and be accessible to around 80,000 Harlem residents, including 13,000 in New York City Housing Authority buildings, is made possible through a $2 million donation from Amanda and Glenn Fuhrman, co-founder of MSD Capital, through the Fuhrman Family Foundation.

Bloomberg made the announcement at the Harlem Children's Zone, site of the high-profile charter schools located in the zone covered by the WiFi network. The first phase of the WiFi network is scheduled to be completed this December, with the second and third phases of the project scheduled to be completed in February and May 2014. Reporters at Tuesday's press conference could already access the WiFi. The network will have a minimum speed of 2mbps, according to Chief Information and Innovation Officer Rahul Merchant.

In his remarks, Bloomberg praised the public-private partnership behind the project. "We talk a lot about closing the digital divide, and Glenn and Amanda are actually doing something about it...we didn't go to them, they came to us," he said.

The network expands on a WiFi program the city announced in September, the Wireless Corridor Challenge. That program, run by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, also entails public-private partnerships sponsoring WiFi, including along 125th Street in Harlem, in Long Island City, Downtown Brooklyn, and the Financial District.

The Fuhrmans' donation, which went to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, is initially funding the network for five years, with the Sky-Packets firm providing the technology. The NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications is overseeing the implementation of the network, along with the NYC Technology Development Corporation, a non-profit that helps manage the city's technology projects and which the Bloomberg administration established in August 2012.

At Tuesday's press conference, Fuhrman said he and his wife were inspired by reading about free WiFi plans from Google, which announced a network in Chelsea at the beginning of the year, and then reached out to the Mayor's Office about sponsoring a network in Harlem.

He highlighted how had he been involved with the details of the project. Realizing the importance of access to buildings throughout the area to make the coverage possible, he said he reached out to property owners he knew in the area who "enthusiastically offered all their buildings for free forever" for the project. Fuhrman said the project reflected his and his wife's love of New York City, their belief in the power of technology and the importance of education, while he said his wife also hoped residents and visitors would use the network to order local food.

Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, said at the press conference Tuesday that while his organization has invested a significant amount of money in using technology to address the digital and educational divide, "we kept running into this problem of families not being able to gain access to the Internet," he said, making it difficult for students to search for information when not in school and for families to pay their bills. He called the WiFi network a "dream come true," noting that it would also make it easier to communicate with parents about homework assignments.

A group of high school students at the school will have the opportunity to work with Showtime Networks on a marketing plan for the WiFi network and on outreach to local businesses and residents. "There are literally thousands of young people whose lives will be enriched," Canada said.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.


wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

thursday >

In Pakistan, A Hypocritical Gov't Ignores Calls To End YouTube Ban

YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan by executive order since September 2012, after the “blasphemous” video Innocence of Muslims started riots in the Middle East. Since then, civil society organizations and Internet rights advocacy groups like Bolo Bhi and Bytes for All have been working to lift the ban. Last August the return of YouTube seemed imminent—the then-new IT Minister Anusha Rehman spoke optimistically and her party, which had won the majority a few months before, was said to be “seriously contemplating” ending the ban. And yet since then, Rehman and her party, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), have done everything in their power to maintain the status quo.


The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery. GO

Boston and Cambridge Move Towards More Open Data

The Boston City Council is now considering an ordinance which would require Boston city agencies and departments to make government data available online using open standards. Boston City Councilor At Large Michelle Wu, who introduced the legislation Wednesday, officially announced her proposal Monday, the same day Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued an executive order establishing an open data policy under which all city departments are directed to publish appropriate data sets under established accessibility, API and format standards. GO