New York City Expanding Free Wi-Fi Zones in December

New York City is on the verge of launching a massive public Wi-Fi program.

This latest initiative from outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg will see free public Wi-Fi debut in parts of Brooklyn (including the Fulton Street corridor, BAM “cultural district,” Brownsville, and the downtown area), Manhattan (such as the Flatiron District and portions of the waterfront), Queens (in Long Island City), and the Bronx and Staten Island.

The New York City government is also launching WiredNYC, a program that will rate the broadband connectivity of office buildings; in theory, such a platform could prod landlords to improve their buildings’ Internet infrastructure by giving potential residents a way to evaluate connectivity before signing a lease. (The mayor’s press release refers to this program as a “‘LEED for broadband’ certification.”)

“If New York City is going remain competitive in the global economy, we must find ways to support the entrepreneurs who are driving technological advances and creating jobs,” Bloomberg wrote in a statement. “With these new initiatives, we are making targeted investments to improve our city’s wireless infrastructure and expand Internet access. We’re also measuring how connected our city’s buildings are and sharing that information, so that entrepreneurs are empowered to make the best decisions about where to open a business.”

The areas receiving free public Wi-Fi—such as the Flatiron District and downtown Brooklyn—also host a high concentration of startups and technology companies. That’s not a coincidence: for several years, the Bloomberg administration has been doing its best to transform New York City into “Silicon Alley.” While giving this year’s commencement address to Stanford’s graduating class, Bloomberg referred to his city as “the hottest new tech scene in the country,” and suggested that tech workers living there would have “more to do on a Friday night than go to the Pizza Hut in Sunnyvale.”

Lighthearted trash-talking about Silicon Valley’s nightlife aside, job postings and conversations with startups on both coasts suggest there’s as much a need for highly skilled developers on the East Coast as the West; and while free public Wi-Fi won’t necessarily be the sole factor in persuading a startup to set down roots here, it certainly can’t hurt. The Wi-Fi “corridors” are scheduled to launch in December.

 

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