Our Plan for Digital Equity

As your City Council member, I will fight for all New Yorkers to have universal broadband, access to reliable digital devices, and the skills and comfort level to navigate online now, and as technology evolves:
  • Implement universal broadband in a fair, equitable way that guarantees digital equity and builds community wealth in neighborhoods with the lowest access.
  • Give New Yorkers easy, safe access to the internet, digital devices, and training opportunities in our City’s public spaces.
  • Create economic growth through digital equity.

Read more below...

The Issues:

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, New Yorkers have been forced to rely on the internet for the most basic functions of our lives. Whether it’s learning, working (or seeking work), worshipping, accessing health care, getting public services, shopping for basic needs, finding a vaccine, or connecting with loved ones, many activities are now only possible online. Universal internet access could mean significant economic and social benefits for our residents. Yet currently, like so many other issues facing our city, a New Yorker’s ability to fully engage with and benefit from the digital world breaks down along lines of race, income, and age.  

 

The inequities apparent in this digital divide are glaringly evident in our borough. Thirty-eight percent of Bronx residents don’t have home broadband, even higher than the 29% city average. And 18.6% of Bronx residents don’t have any internet at all - lacking both broadband and cellular connection. Of course it’s even worse for economically struggling residents. In District 11, nearly 1 in 3 households with an income of $20,000 or less has no internet access. Just think what that means. These are families that may rely on safety net programs to afford basic necessities like food, housing, and health care, yet are unable to sign up for or manage these services online. The digital divide also cuts across race and ethnicity, with 30% of Black and Latinx New Yorkers lacking access compared to 20% of white New Yorkers. Digital inequity is a stark reality for many of our older residents, 42% of whom lack internet access. And for Bronxites who can afford home broadband, they are stuck with limited choice in providers, and service that’s actually gotten worse in recent years.

Our Solutions:

Closing the digital divide will impact District 11 residents, and the City as a whole, in the short and long-term. Children in homeless shelters or homes lacking the internet will be able to connect with teachers and classmates. The nearly 1 in 5 Bronx teens who cannot finish their homework because they don’t have fast, reliable internet will have that barrier removed. Homeless New Yorkers will be able to search for stable housing. Our unemployed neighbors can more easily seek new jobs. As long as senior centers remain closed, our older residents will have ways to connect, minimizing their risk of loneliness and isolation. Our bright young people will have a pathway to the fast growing digital economy. 

 

As our city recovers, it’s time to view digital equity as a right, not a privilege, that is critical to sustaining and improving New Yorkers’ well-being. We can’t leave people behind on the wrong side of the digital divide as we build our city back better.

 

As your City Council member, I will fight for all New Yorkers to have universal broadband, access to reliable digital devices, and the skills and comfort level to navigate online now and as technology evolves.

 

Implement universal broadband in a fair, equitable way that guarantees digital equity and builds community wealth in neighborhoods with the lowest access:
  • Ensure that the City’s upcoming round of telecommunications franchises:

    • Gives all New Yorkers ample choices of internet service providers;

    • Provides affordable, high speed internet for all New Yorkers;

    • Prioritizes New York City’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) framework investing in entrepreneurs who can connect the communities in which they live;

    • Keeps the revenue and jobs created by implementing universal broadband in neighborhoods that have traditionally been on the wrong side of the digital divide, including by supporting locally-owned and operated mesh wireless networks, and cooperative models. 

  • Explore the possibility of the City offering a public, affordable, high-speed broadband option.

  • Make sure that as universal broadband roles out, the community engagement called for in the City’s Internet Master Plan actually happens.

 

Give New Yorkers easy, safe access to the internet, digital devices, and training opportunities in our City’s public spaces:
  • Fight for all NYCHA facilities, and City-funded homeless shelters, senior centers, schools, and transitional housing to have high-speed broadband.

  • Increase funding for the NYC Digital Inclusion and Literacy Initiative, and exploring how franchise revenue can support this fund.

  • Ensure that all Department of Education (DOE) students have devices and the ability to get online, including supporting Council Members Kallos and Lewis’s Int 2138-2020, requiring the DOE to give every student that needs one a Wi-fi enabled laptop. 

  • Expand and upgrade public computer centers managed by City agencies and library systems.

 

Create economic growth through digital equity:
  • Prepare youth for the tech economy by investing in 21st century workforce training, including funding innovative community based organizations that are already doing this work.

  • Connect small businesses with resources to help them compete and adapt to new technologies (e.g. online ordering).

Abigail Martin for City Council

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