De Blasio Calls for Wi-Fi at Phone Booths, Universal Broadband in Internet Week Speech

Mayor de Blasio has unveiled an ambitious plan to make New York City a more attractive destination for high-tech jobs, including a proposal to ensure every neighborhood is wired for high-speed broadband Internet access.

De Blasio, who took office in January, vowed Monday to help the city's tech sector, dubbed "Silicon Alley," and reassured the industry that he will be as tech friendly as his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who saw a dramatic growth in the field during his 12 years in office.

"We take an energetic view of helping this sector grow," said de Blasio, who kicked off the city's "Internet Week" at a Manhattan event. He also attempted to tie the growing high-tech industry to his own signature initiative to combat income inequality in the nation's largest city.

"We can't continue to have a digital divide that holds back too many of our citizens," the Democratic mayor said.

To that end, he said he was creating a task force to study ways to create universal broadband to help the nearly one-third of New Yorkers who currently do not have high-speed Internet access, including many in the city's public housing developments.

He also wants to turn 10,000 little-used payphones into Internet hot spots and announced a $10 million program — funded by a combination of the city, state and private sector — to train New Yorkers to be better qualified for tech sector jobs. He also said the city will continue to aid an ongoing project, slated to be completed this summer, to create a free public wireless network for a nearly 30 block stretch of Harlem.

There are currently 291,000 high tech jobs in the city and de Blasio said City Hall would hope to steer some future growth in the industry to the boroughs outside of Manhattan. The funding sources for the some of the projects, which will take years to complete, were not immediately clear.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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