Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Broadband Advisory Committee Comes to Manhattan

On Wednesday, December 12th, from 1pm until 4pm at the Manhattan School of Music, Greenfield Hall the Broadband Advisory Committee will meet.

Let us know why a fast - and affordable - Internet connection is useful and important to you. If broadband is not available in your home, business or organization, or if it is too expensive, the members of the joint Mayoral-City Council Broadband Advisory Committee want to hear from you. To testify, call 212.788.6975 or email Kunal.Malhotra[at]

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NYC Broadband Advisory Committee August 6, 2007, Meeting

The following are notes from the August 6, 2007 NYC Broadband Advisory Committee Meeting courtesy of Mr. Joshua Breitbart, Policy Director of People's Production House.

Committee members in attendance:
Anthony Townsend
Stand-in for Tom Dunne (Verizon representative)
Shaun Belle
Elisabeth Stock
Wendy Lader
David Birdsell
Andrew Rasiej
Mitch Ahlbaum
Howard Szarfarc
Avi Dandevani
Jose Rodriguez

Audience members:
Council Member Gale Brewer
Brewer's Chief of Staff Bruce Lai
Jeffrey Baker, Counsel to the Committee on Technology in Government
Diamond Consultants
and me, Joshua Breitbart

Ted Brodheim, the recently-hired Chief Information Officer for the NYC Department of Education. (4 months on the job)

Summary notes of Mr. Brodheim’s testimony
The challenge is that any DOE program utilizing broadband in the home needs to be implemented equitably. Dept. of Education is not implementing programs now due to imbalance in home broadband access.

Schools are no longer geographically specific. Neighborhood-based schools allowed for after-school interaction. “The web offers the possibility to bring that collaboration back into the educational process.”

If broadband inequity were removed tomorrow, it would be “all about collaboration tools for students.” It would enable teachers to put up research, content, and supplemental materials on the web allowing students to add pieces to it.

In his opinion, the barrier to Internet access is the cost of the service. There needs to be a no- or low-cost way to provide broadband access. If it can’t be universal, then it should at least serve an entire grade level (probably high elementary or middle school).

He is trying to track down the amount the Dept. of Ed. spends on ICT. Off of the top of his head, he’d guess it’s 5-700 million, including telecom costs (phone, blackberries).

The Internet has "tremendous potential to unlock what happens in the classroom and extend it out into the homes and the community."

Question: What affect does access have on student performance?
Efficiency, or productivity in the classroom, not studied much, but unquestionably higher. Students and teachers become way more efficient in the classroom. There's a high impact on student achievement. This fall, the DOE is giving 6000 teachers (out of 90,000) laptops and broadband access as a pilot project to seed the idea of using technology along these lines.

Schools are only open 15% of the time, so there is idle bandwidth, which could, as Anthony Townsend put it, "make schools as an oasis for broadband." But there are restrictions from e-rate federal funding. Can't open e-rate to public or use it to wire administrative offices. Reimbursement rates are at 95%, so it's a hard argument to shift to another funding source

Question: Textbooks are expensive, so could there be a provision for savings on textbooks for utilizing broadband?
Answer: No answer available.

Question: Are the teachers ready to implement Internet into their curriculum?
Answer: Some are ready now and some would get ready. But, some won't get ready. However, They want to do the right thing, as long as we give them what they need.

DOE has a network of 95 miles of heavy fiber, several hundred miles of spurs, and hundreds of thousands of nodes. It receives about 100,000 denial-of-service (DOS) attacks every day. They are trying to balance the protection of the integrity of the network and recognizing that we don't know where the next best idea will come from. They're also working on tools to allow schools to share info, like through wikis, where they write about what works and what doesn't, to help them get over the learning curve. It has to be done in the context of protecting the integrity of the network.

"You name the model, we've got it." With support from Microsoft, Cisco, and others, New York is "a virtual national lab of schools of the future."

He's looking to package tech options - using tech support models, etc. Schools know their problems, but not necessarily the solutions. They're looking to better leverage resources they now have. He's looking for a couple of base models for k-5, middle school, high school, to give an idea of what schools should look like from a technological standpoint. DOE is developing school profiles, groups of 30-100 schools, with school support organizations to target solutions at those common schools. They are trying to do that with software, etc.

There's a new system - ARIS - (achievement reporting system) to make reporting available to teachers and principals this year and parents next year. Currently reports are mailed home, but these reports will be more frequently updated and have more information. But that doesn't address inequity in terms of parents without Internet access.

DOE has not done hard statistics on the inequity, but in the future they may include broadband questions in new surveys.

Some schools have assumptions that everyone has access, while others assume that no one has access. Schools try to keep computer labs open after hours.

Students limited in ability to research colleges and prepare themselves for going through the application process, even if it hasn't necessarily limited the actual submission of applications. Need to improve tools around searching, searching for scholarships, etc.

Currently talking with Secretary of Ed. Spelling and the FCC to re-interpret e-rate rules. They are too much about laying physical cable, and not allowing for a move into the next generation of technology, specifically, collaborative tools, and maintenance. E-rate can't be spent on upgrades for 6 years even though the hardware becomes outdated in 3 years. Also, they only allow you to buy things. There's no training on any of the ways to make the things useful.

Distance learning: DOE hasn't done much on it, but if they did it would address students missing school and collaboration with school districts outside of the city.

Question: How much tech is in the curriculum? How is it integrated?
Answer: It's been left to each school to decide, so I can't answer. There's no clear model. Schools that are doing a good job have figured it out on their own – the good and bad. Now we're looking to identify what's working well, package it, and move it into other locations. It's up to principals, so it's possible for students to go through school without using, although I would be surprised if that is that were the case.

Question from Mitch Ahlbaum (DOITT): The first step, before talking about computers at home, is to make sure they are actually being used in the schools.

Answer: There are 400,000 high school students. Ratio of 4:1 (students to student-available computers); not 100% of those computers are connected to the Internet. It's close to 90% but it's not evenly distributed across schools. Every school outside of District 75 (special education) has some access.

Question from Elisabeth Stock, Computers For Youth: How is your office connected to the instructional side? How can you do that as best as possible?

Answer: We're working quite closely now, though that had not been the case in the past.

There are 1500 schools and we now understand the need for flexibility across those schools

We work with a number of nonprofit organizations, and received a modest grant from Gates to form more of those partnerships. There's no hard demographic data on access to these programs and we don't actively seek such grants, just had a chance at this one grant

Question from Andrew Rasiej: Will the market solve the problems or should government intervene?
Answer: "Market forces will not address this on their own."


Other matters:

David Birdsell: There have been consistent themes in the Bronx and Brooklyn: What people want to do but can’t do, including content creation, video content, community web-based development. They can't do it because affordable broadband is not available. Let's take themes and get data beyond the anecdotal level.
There's a lack of awareness of opportunities from people who aren't functioning within a broadband environment. There's a lack of imagination impressed by a tendency to define broadband in terms of what we have today (768k, 1.5mb - not the 20mb or 50mb rates we might dream about) - "We should be thinking about what might be rather than getting people on board with what we have today."

There's a plan to do 3 more hearings this year - In September, October, and a report due at the end of the year. The Committee will be working out those dates in the next couple of weeks

Shaun Belle: Ongoing theme - there's no master plan, yet the ability to deliver the platform is there, there's just not a lot of emphasis around it. No one is thinking about the issue outside of their own agency or outside of the school

We're looking for real data. What are we looking to present at the end of the day?

Wendy Lader: On the timing of report: City Hall asked for more info, so the report is still in the works. We will present an overview to Committee members before it is prepared for release.
On the surveys - over 1000 responses to the NYCHA survey from 6700 selected.
2000 responses to paper surveys in 58 libraries.
We need a few more months.

Anthony Townsend: On underutilized infrastructure from schools, libraries, public safety
"What can we do to get extra value out of what the City is already investing in?"
There is redundant infrastructure that is all underutilized, including a proposed $500 million network for NYPD and municipal agencies.
Andrew Rasiej: That $500 million could be leveraged
Gale Brewer agrees and would appreciate help making that happen.

Andrew Rasiej: We should be working on some potential recommendations.

David Birdsell – Our task has three parts:
1. Describe situation on the ground
2. Describe the world we would like to see exist - what to aspire to? Bandwidth, cost
3. How to get there?
We should be looking at other cities' ability to roll out affordable 20mb broadband.

Andrew Rasiej: Who can provide us with information to compare NYC to other cities in the US and internationally? Let's have a chat with Diamond so we at least know what they’re presenting.

Wendy Lader: Maybe it will be a month, or a month and a half to get an overview.

The contract between EDC and Diamond Consultants is funded through an IDA grant.

Andrew Rasiej: What can we do to make sure that our recommendations get done?

Shaun Belle: What commitment do we have from the Mayor to act?

Gale Brewer: The Council doesn't know what to do. We could devote funding, but how do you sustain and maintain a public-private partnership? An initiative is more likely than big change in policy.

Elisabeth Stock: Should we address duopoly?
Franchise is up in 2008. Mitch Ahlbaum (DOITT) is knowledgeable on that.

Elisabeth Stock: What money available from the state, that new $5 million?
Brewer’s office will look into it.


Joshua Breitbart, Policy Director
People's Production House
265 Canal Street, suite 410
New York, NY 10013

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

MAY 22 -- Brooklyn Hearing -- Testimonies

The following are the testimonies from the Brooklyn Hearing held on May 22. Click on "Read More" to see each testimony (In order of appearance at the hearing).

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Thomas Kamber
Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Video Clip

Policy Brief:
Improving Access to Affordable High-Speed
Internet Service for Older Adults


Every New Yorker should have access to affordable high-speed Internet from home, but the need is particularly urgent for senior citizens—especially the home-bound elderly. Older adults can use computers to overcome social isolation, connect to health information, and access government services, but fewer than one in four senior citizens is online today. As a result, one of the most important tools for improving the quality of life of aging New Yorkers is unavailable to the majority of households, primarily as a result of high cost. Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) recommends that the City of New York, together with providers of telecommunications services, create a program to make affordable Internet service available to low-income elderly residents of the city, with special focus on those living alone with mobility impairments.

Why Senior Citizens Need Broadband Access

There is a great deal at stake for older adults in the Digital Age: The pervasive reach of technology has fundamentally changed the way that Americans connect to their families, communities, government and society. From mundane activities such as shopping and reading the news, to life-and-death needs like health care and social contact, technology has become an indispensable tool for living. In 1996, an individual might be correct in assuming that computers, the World-Wide Web, digital video and high-speed Internet access were primarily tools of the business world, universities or technology specialists. Just ten years later, these devices and resources are in common daily use in the vast majority of American households.

The importance of technology as a tool for living well has been discussed and elaborated in many publications and studies. Yet, it is worth pausing to acknowledge the range of opportunities for older adults that are strongly tied to digital resources:

• A recent study by the Congressional Government Accountability Office found that the federal Medicare telephone hotline gave out inaccurate or incomplete information 39 percent of the time. Experts report that the website is the only resource that allows seniors to compare all available “Part D” plans together with the list of medications used by an individual.
•, sponsored by the National Council on Aging, provides an opportunity for users to consider their eligibility for over 1300 different public benefit programs, averaging over 50 programs per state. More than 1.2 million people have used the service.
• A recent study by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development found that two-thirds of American workers plan to continue working past the traditional age of retirement, many who need the income to continue to live independently. Yet with information workers now accounting for more than 70 percent of the American labor force, older applicants who often lack technology skills are at a distinct disadvantage.

Perhaps the greatest challenge faced by older adults in the Digital Age is social isolation. Escalating social isolation among senior citizens has recently been called “a formula for disaster” by researchers. As growing numbers of older adults today seek to “age in place” at home, they rely increasingly on community-based social networks for assistance with health care, services and daily necessities. Unfortunately, these networks break down all too often: nearly one-third of low-income seniors who live alone report going for weeks at a time with no direct social contact from friends or neighbors.

The Internet can be a veritable life-line for the home-bound elderly. Seniors who live at home and have mobility impairments are at particular risk for loneliness and social isolation. For these individuals, a computer can serve as a powerful tool for connecting to friends and family, for accessing news and information, and for managing information about health care, finances and over vital topics.

Access to the Internet can help older adults live better, more independent lives in communities across New York City. Unfortunately, age is a very strong predictor of Internet use. A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that just 22 percent of Americans over the age of 65 use the Internet. Young people, by contrast, are the most intensive users of technology: 79 percent of teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 go online regularly, together with nearly 20 percent of pre-schoolers, ages 3-4.

Current Trends

A combination of market forces and social initiatives is helping to close the technology gap for senior citizens in New York City, yet the lack of affordable broadband access for seniors continues to be a major obstacle to large-scale change. Nonprofit organizations, foundations and corporate sponsors are doing important work to train seniors and help them gain access to computer hardware at home and in community technology centers around the city. Lower costs for hardware and software, along with more senior-friendly interfaces and applications, are bringing the benefits of technology to more older adults every year, but the high cost of Internet access remain a serious barrier for many seniors.

Poverty among New York City seniors is rising at an alarming pace and is now almost double the national rate. Nearly 18 percent of New York seniors live in poverty, according to the 2000 Census, an 8 percent increase over the previous decade. One-third of people over the age of 65 live alone (319,000 individuals), and 39 percent have a disability that impairs their mobility or their ability to care for themselves.

In the face of these disturbing statistics, however, many initiatives are under way to help older adults—especially those living alone, in poverty, or with disabilities—gain access to free or low-cost technology to improve their lives:
• OATS and Per Scholas, supported by the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, recently launched an ambitious program to teach computer skills to 500 low-income senior citizens and install free refurbished desktop computers in their homes. The program, called Comp2Seniors, has already served nearly 200 seniors and is meeting with enthusiastic responses from participants. Bronx-based partners include RAIN, Mt. Hope Housing, Phipps West Farms, and Castle Hill Senior Center.
• Mt. Hope Housing Company is wiring over 1200 units of low-income housing for affordable Internet access, and is partnering with OATS and other nonprofits to make enable hundreds of older adults can participate in using the new technology.
• Jewish Home and Hospital Lifecare Systems recently launched a pilot project with OATS to train JHH volunteers to teach technology skills to home-bound senior citizens.
• IBM has donated 200 computers left over from the Republican National Convention to senior centers around the city, enhancing locally available resources for training and supporting older adults who wish to learn technology. OATS recently received a grant from IBM to load software for the visually impaired on desktops at multiple community technology locations that serve seniors.
• OATS has expanded its technology training programs for older adults to over 20 locations citywide. The organization taught 622 class sessions free-of-charge to seniors in 2006, and has developed three levels of curriculum that are taught in an intergenerational format using high school students to co-teach the classes. OATS has launched a digital community for older adults at to provide a platform online for older adults to share resources, events, and blog commentary.

These initiatives represent significant commitment from the nonprofit, corporate, and philanthropy sectors to help low-income older adults get access to hardware, training, and support as they seek to participate more fully in the digital age.


Lack of affordable broadband access remains is a serious obstacle to overcoming the technology gap for seniors—and is possibly the area where the least progress is being made. Falling prices for desktops and software, along with high-capacity programs such as the Per Scholas Comp2Seniors initiative, are putting computers within reach for even the lowest-income seniors. Training and outreach programs run free-of-charge by OATS and its 20 nonprofit partners around the city are enhancing the skills and knowledge of thousands of older adults each year. But for the approximately 50,000 elderly New Yorkers living alone on less than the poverty threshold of $8980 a year, a $480 annual broadband bill is simply not within reach.

OATS recommends that the City of New York create a mechanism for making free or affordable high-speed Internet access available to low-income senior citizens. Such a measure could be implemented as a government subsidy or voluntary price reduction by service providers, and could be negotiated as part of cable TV franchising agreements. Specifically, the City should:

1. Provide preference for seniors living below the poverty line
2. Provide preference for individuals living alone and those living with mobility disabilities
3. Coordinate the subsidy to link to training, support, and hardware distribution programs that are already serving this population
4. Support the continuation and expansion of training, support, and hardware initiatives for seniors.

If the budget for the Department for the Aging were increased by 2 percent to help pay for a comprehensive program of connecting older adults to technology resources and the Internet, $4.6 million dollars would be available to address this critical problem. Such a program could serve thousands of low-income older adults each year with low-cost or free Internet access, computer training, intergenerational programs, free or low-cost refurbished computers, technical support, and online resources.

Home-based Internet access, which is taken for granted by the vast majority of Americans but is still beyond the reach of most senior citizens, is the linchpin for a broad range of life resources today. It should be emphasized that the purpose of a public technology program for seniors is to leverage the power of technology to help older adults overcome social isolation, improve health information and financial management, and connect to government services.

The City of New York currently provides a range of needed programs for older individuals to ensure their quality of life, including transportation services, home-based nutrition counseling, and employment services. OATS believes that increased access to technology is an important way to enhance and extend the services we currently provide, enabling us to enrich the lives of thousands of vulnerable older adults with a cost-effective program that builds on initiatives currently supported by a broad range of community-based and nonprofit organizations across New York City.

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Carlos Pareja
Education Program Manager, Brooklyn Community Access TV (BCAT)

Video Clip

My name is Carlos Pareja and I manage the education program at Brooklyn Community Access TV just down Fulton Street from here.

Our community producers and our interns are here now taping this event to share with others in our community. Communications binds a community, that’s why we’re here.

Brooklyn is a borough of 2.5 million people of diverse origins, speaking dozens of languages and we at BCAT serve everyone who lives within this great borough.

People come to BCAT from Red Hook, Midwood, Gravesend, Bedford-Stuyvesant and other neighborhoods to use their community media center to create video content for television or to use their multimedia lab to launch an open source internet browser, use a hi-speed T-1 line and work on their video blog, update their resume, their production reels or CVs and build on the knowledge gained from a community learning environment.

And then they’ll go home with some valuable skills and the confidence to enter or re-enter the workforce with a secure feeling that they’re not being left behind. That their neighborhoods will benefit from rigorous build out requirements and effectual oversight.

The fight for broadband must be connected to the media justice movement.

As an access center charged with meeting the media needs of the Brooklyn community, someday we may be loaning out WiFi cell phones with video-capturing capabilities to our community producers to document their neighborhoods. And then they’ll upload the content at some public hot spot to a BCAT server, so they can continue to speak to their community.

Technology and its rapid advancement is a tool, a means for achieving a purposeful end, but what that purpose ends up to be needs to be supported by sound, public-interest policy. That is the role of government. A broadband future where connectivity is based on the principles of universal service is what Brooklyn and NYC’s broadband plan should be.

I thank this committee for taking the time to hear from the people of Brooklyn and the representatives of their community media center.

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Steven Schechter
Director of Government and Community Affairs, Brooklyn Public Library

Video Clip 1: Steven Schechter (NYC Council)

Video Clip 2: Steven Schechter (NYC Council)

Testimony before NYC Broadband Advisory Committee

• Representing BPL Executive Director Dionne Mack Harvin

• Thank members of Committee for providing BPL the opportunity to testify

• BPL recognizes the importance of its role as one of the City’s largest providers of free Broadband access. We know that for many in Brooklyn, we provide the only access to a PC and to the Internet.

• BPL has made a significant investment in new technology over the past several years ensure that we have system that meets the needs of our users – we have replaced every public PC, invested in network infrastructure to improve the reliability of our broadband connection and now provide free WiFi at every location for those with their own wireless devices. Let me talk about some basic facts about our system.

- We provide library service from 59 neighborhood branches, one within walking distance of every Brooklynite, and maintain a network of more than 1000 public PCs

- More than 1 million Brooklynites have an Access Brooklyn Card (ABC), Brooklyn Public Library’s card, which of course allows them to borrow books, but for many, more importantly, sign up for two free 30 minute sessions on a PC with Internet access every day

- Demand for the Internet usage we provide is demonstrated in the strong demand for this service. BPL provided library patrons 160,000 30-minute sessions per month in the most recent quarter – we are on a pace to provide almost 2 million Internet sessions in the Fiscal Year about to end in June.

• Anecdote - Statistics show the demand, but what we see every day at our libraries also shows the strong demand for access to the Internet – almost every morning before we open, and in the evening after we close, staff at the Central Library and at neighborhood libraries reports patrons with their own laptops and other wireless devices outside of our buildings – leaning on fences and sitting on stoops – taking advantage of the WiFi signal that we provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So while many patrons have their own laptops, many can’t afford or don’t want to make the investment in a high-speed internet connection at home. We think this really demonstrates the strong demand for broadband access in Brooklyn.

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Ed Michiels
Marketing Director
Advantage Brokerage, Inc.

Video Clip 7: Ed Michaels (formerly unemployed)

Ed Michiels, Marketing Director
Advantage Brokerage, Inc.

In response to inquiry of Sewell Chan, NY Times:
Sewell Chan
Reporter | The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street | New York, N.Y. 10036

Re: Ed Michiels Testimony
Re: Broadband hearing - City Council committee meeting Brooklyn 5/23/2007.

Ed Michiels
Marketing Director
Advantage Brokerage, Inc.

After listening in attendance on 5/23/2007 to the comments of Mr. Thomas Kamber, Executive Director, (O.A.T.S.) Older Adults Technology Services and others; I am compelled to remark on my personal experience as a 911 survivor and recently re-employed Babyboomer.

Broadband access is essential to re-employment research, either personally or through community based programs.

Born in Brooklyn, and living in Brooklyn at the time of 911 here in NYC, and losing my employment in the financial district in lower Manhattan as a 911 survivor, I was employed as a Career Counselor at the 911 crisis center established in Brooklyn, at The Site provided by Goodwill Industies of NY and funded by the HRA dept of NYC. As such I provided services to those like myself who survived this event seeking re-employment.

After the program was closed, I was eligible to be accepted into a Community Program serviced by PACE University’s C.L.O.U.T. program. This program was funded to provide office professionals like myself with an opportunity to upgrade our computer skills, which resulted in a follow up internship and employment at a Fortune 500 (100) company.

That employment was recently terminated as a result of a corporate reorganization decision. As a 55 year old city resident it was necessary to use resources for employment research once again. The facts are the older we are the more challenging re-employment can become. Every resource available is a necessary resource that can impact our city budget by re-employing our citizens. Resources to address re-employment of our citizens is vital to people of all ages, especially those in pre-retirement age to avoid becoming a burden to the city.

The reality of today’s labor market is technology has impacted re-employment job research to the extent that now the NYS Labor dept issues an ATM card to former employees to receive unemployment benefits. That being the case, the city can use this as a resource to identify people who could be eligible for reduced broadband service rates.

In my case I formally had internet dial up service provided by AOL and switched to Time Warner Cable with a program that allowed AOL customers to receive this service for less than $20.00 per month. As this was a reasonable rate I choose to use broadband service from TWC, my cable service provider. The improved internet access improved my ability to reach out to prospective employers and keep in touch with family and friends. Avoiding isolation due to changes in employment is vital to address immediate needs both financially and socially. In today’s competitve economy, when faced with employment research, broadband access is as vital as telephone service.

Reasonable competitive rates should be made available to individuals who would qualify for these rates as negotiated under terms and conditions agreed to by the City Council and Broadband Service Providers.

I would also like to reaffirm the HIGH SCHOOL students who made comments at the hearing, in particular that 1 class, or year of computer training in high school today is inadequate to provide students with the basic skills they need to prepare for college education and lifetime employment. My 3 children have college educations and 2 have Master degrees. The internet broadband access they utilize is 2nd nature.

As programs servicing the community become more internet dependant for delivery of their services, access to broadband service needs to be affordable and accessible to all.

The budget of our public libraries need to be provided a line item resource to facilitate this need in our communities, for both staff and hardware in addition to cost effective residential and business broadband rates.

— Posted by Ed Michiels

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Akosua K. Albritton, Technology Columnist for Our Time Press, a Brooklyn newspaper

Video Clip 9: Akosua Albritton (Our Time Press)

I begin by thanking Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilwoman Gale Brewer and the NYC Broadband Advisory Committee for knowing how important it is to hear from Brooklyn’s families; businesses and nonprofits about their needs for telecommunication upgrade using broadband technology. It is unfortunate that the public hearing is scheduled for 12 noon to 3:00 PM here. After 5 PM, there would be an even larger turnout.

While we’re debating whether broadband infrastructure is necessary, nations and cities across the globe are laying it down, setting up Wi Fi and Wi Max. Since 2000, The Intelligent Community Forum and Polytechnic University present Building the Broadband Economy Conference and Awards. Last week, I met with Julius Timothy, Minister of Economic Development and Planning for Dominica, Dr. Stephan Brennan from The Digital Hub in Dublin, Ireland and Shaun Belle, president of Mt. Hope Housing Co. in The Bronx. Belle of Mount Hope was there because Mount Hope Housing Company was up for the Intelligent Facility of the Year Award. I say Brooklyn must get in the game and in a hurry.

Broadband is high speed, reliable Internet service. It is today’s communication technology advance the way, the telegraph, telephone and TV were in their day. In 2007, we would think it a waste of time to debate whether people need a phone in their homes, businesses or institutions.

Broadband will become just that common and integral in a blink of an eye. It’s happening now. People need fast, reliable Internet service in Brooklyn. Broadband relates to the bandwidth or the capacity for the wire or fiber optics to transmit voice, video and data. Today, people are doing their banking, making purchases, researching and watching videos on the Internet. It’s possible to take college courses, talk over the Internet and connect with friends tens of thousands of miles away. In fact, students in America are making friends with students in Australia and Africa by installing a web cam and microphone to a PC. It’s as if they’re looking at each other through a window. People need broadband because of the use of video to transmit ideas online and real time.

Businesses need websites, email and a variety of social media to stay competitive. Media experts say that major advertisers are cutting their TV advertising budgets because more people are using the Internet as a trusted source for news, information and entertainment. People are using search engines to find products and services the way telephone directories were used in the 60’s and 70’s. Small and large firms need to regularly submit their sites to search engines and consider various web marketing to be found, visited and patronized. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Remember when stores relied heavily on flyer distribution? Now, it’s email advertising.

All neighborhoods in Brooklyn deserve this access—and at a low price. A working family shouldn’t be blocked from getting high speed, wide bandwidth connection. That barrier may keep someone from taking a course to improve her life circumstances or watch streaming video about a medical procedure. New York City Council recently passed a resolution to ensure that households in publicly financed housing will be web-enabled and that the monthly fee for service should be no more than ten dollars.

As for myself, I blog, email advertise, maintain a website, have a My Space page and watch videos on You Tube. I look forward to the next offerings on the Internet.

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Antwuan Wallace, Ph.D. student in policy analysis, New School

Video Clip 22A: Antwuan Wallace (Graduate Student)

Video Clip 22B: Antwuan Wallace (Graduate Student)


Digital Inclusion (DI) is an important and ongoing policy concern for two reasons: (1) understanding and deconstructing structural barriers low-income, ethnic-minority youth accessing (infrastructure) and using (devices) Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and (2) redressing intergovernmental policy fissures in existing and emerging digital divides. Several arguments are considered to bolster this position.

First, the pending reauthorization of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 has amplified a muted, though ongoing debate between policymakers, analysts, academics and activists about the “digital divide”. US “digital divide” policy now centers on broadband deployment (Litan, 2006; National league of Cities Conference 2006; Crandall and Jackson 2001), especially in poor communities of color (Turner 2005). US public policy choices have reflected assumptions that persistent divides will find remedy through private standard setting that relies on industry self-governance to foster competition in the marketplace driven by technological innovation and consumer choice (Thierer 2000a). As a result, the US federal government’s role in technology-related programmatic approaches and policy solutions for vulnerable segments of the population has spurred the substantive disagreement about the existence of a “digital divide” (Herrmann 2006; Servon 2002; US Department of Commerce 2001).

Second, US cities are firmly establishing themselves as principal parties within the broadband policy sphere. Cities are creating DI through municipal wireless plans that would deliver broadband connectivity to commercial and residential areas. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath evidence how telecommunication policy is perhaps the new civil rights legislation determing whether working poor communities are to be materially misrepresented or altogether disappeared from policy debates about economic development, electoral politics and civic participation in the digital age. The tenenous realities of race, class, gender, poverty and geographic location frame the US “digital divide” and robustly suggest the need for direct action from policymakers and planners.
DI often includes a mission statement and incentives specifically directed at addressing the varied and multiple constituencies of the “digital divide”. Subsequently, DI may be understood as a municipal response to federal and state governments’ neglect of the “digital divide”.

Third, the theoretical underpinnings of the information society’s “informational mode of development” enable dualism paradigm with spatial flows of capital investment that excludes poor communities and set in motion material consequences for the residentially poor in the United States. Thus, formidable obstacles arise for urban poor residents where the social, cultural and technical emergence of information processes are the core fundamental activity conditioning the effectiveness and productivity. These changes in social and economic realities manifest in the global labor market realignments and international financial flows that affect end-users’ ability to construct an identity and develop social relationships with technology. Wilson’s (1987 and 1996) urban decay analysis maintains that social and economic upheavals continue to greatly affect the emergence of concentration and persistent joblessness in black and Latino communities Simply put, in an informational-driven society the working poor are isolated and separated with less access and the fewest alternatives to meaningful networks.

Finally, compelling research documents unequal ICT access that leaves behind specific constituencies: low-income households, people of color, immigrant populations and youth. Quantitative analysis of the 2003 Current Population Survey (CPS) indicates disparities for poor youth of color. Farlie (2004a) estimates that only slightly more than half of all African-American and Latino children and less than half of all children living in families with incomes less than $30,000 have access to home computer. In comparison, 85 percent of white, non-Latino children and 94 percent of children in families with $60,000 of income have access to home computers. Analysis from the 2001 CPS indicates that only about 1 percent of young people ages 8-25 used the Internet at a community center, compared to 10 percent who use the Internet at libraries and 54 percent who went online at school (Farlie 2004b). Yet, the community center use rate has increased seven-fold since 1998, and African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to access and use ICT in these centers than are their white counterparts. Many working poor communities struggle to locate resources to fund and staff quality programs that provide opportunities with technology to surmount formidable barriers, especially where youth are concerned.

My research preliminarily explores key dimensions of DI planning and implementation. How are current DI policies shaping the ways low-income ethnic-minority youth access and use technology in community centers, do they extend critical networks for these youth and to what extent does DI fill gaps between federal, state and local telecommunications policy?

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Steven Masur
Lawyer for start-up businesses in New York City

Testimony of Steven Masur
New York City
Broadband Advisory Committee
Jointly with the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President\

May 22, 2007

Masurlaw is a law firm that helps new businesses and business divisions start, grow, chart their future path and execute on it. Over the last 14 years, we have worked with hundreds of early stage businesses and new divisions of larger corporations to help them strategize, do deals, create and protect their intellectual property.

We represent the community of starting businesses in New York.

If we in New York want to be competitive with places like Silicon Valley, Mumbai, or Shanghai, we need cheap widespread broadband access in New York. New York has great colleges and universities. New York has smart people. New York has capital. New York is known worldwide as a desirable place to live. Why don't we have a more vibrant start-up community?

If we care about the future of New York, we need to focus on our pipeline of new businesses. We need to whip up all the good ingredients we have into a froth of new business innovation.

Let's make it EASY for people. Widespread cheap broadband access can help the process.

If people could connect to the internet anywhere in New York City, people could more easily share ideas, work on projects, and research topics of all kinds. A primordial soup of new ideas and interaction would result and would grow exponentially. This is the well from which the ideas that change the world spring.

Interaction and sharing information is what makes New York hum. It's why we are all here. It's the basis of all of our historical success.

Should access to the internet be limited to rich people? Is it only rich people who have good ideas? Why would we want to perpetuate a situation in which only rich people have access to a universal library of information on any topic and the ability to communicate instantaneously?

In an earlier age of our country, J.P. Morgan understood the importance of free access to information. He cared so much about it that he financed the establishment of a network of libraries nationwide. J.P. Morgan was not perfect by any means, but he knew that this was the key to creating a bright future for our country and could prevent it from sliding into a dark age of violence, disease, chaos and mayhem. If you consider the wild west at that time and relate it to the dark ages in Europe and the developing nations of today, you can easily see that our country could have gone in a completely different direction. The loss of the library at Alexandria set not only one group of people, but all of humanity back an incalculable number of years.

Now we have technology that can make knowledge on any topic and communication with anyone on earth instantaneous. Open it up. Grant cheap access. We have free water, let's have free information. Information is our future.

It's a lot cheaper to do this than to create a national network of libraries. Let's do better than JP Morgan.


Steven Masur

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

MAY 22, Brooklyn Hearing - Thanks!

On May 22, at Brooklyn Borough Hall, the New York City Broadband Advisory Committee held its second public hearing, and listened to testimony from dozens of Brooklyn residents. Many thanks to everyone who was involved with the event.

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Audio of the Brooklyn Hearing available here.
Press Release Available Here:

NEW YORK, NY 10007
TEL: : 212-788-6975


May 22, 2007 – This afternoon in Brooklyn Borough Hall, the New York City Broadband Advisory Committee, a joint Mayoral-City Council commission, listened to testimony from dozens of Brooklyn residents, both young and old, business owners, and non-profit leaders, including the Brooklyn Public Library, about the importance of inexpensive and reliable access to a high-speed Internet connection (or a broadband connection). The Council Member Gale A. Brewer – the Chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Technology in Government – sponsored the event, along with the Office of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and several members of the New York City Council, including Council Members Albert Vann, Letitia James, Bill De Blasio, Vincent Gentile, Diana Reyna, Oliver Koppell, James Sanders and Simcha Felder.

Council Member Brewer addressed the need for affordable access to broadband in order to improve the quality of life of – and economic opportunities for – all New Yorkers.

“New York is the most dynamic city in the world, but when it comes to the Internet, we’re stuck in the dial-up age,” said Council Member Brewer. “We need use broadband to bring in jobs, help schools, and make the city safer. There are over 1.1 million schoolchildren in New York City public schools. Shouldn’t they all have access to the vast information resources of the Internet in the home as well?”

“The Broadband Committee has been engaged with the critical task of exploring the role that NYC Government can play in addressing the issues that impact access to broadband connectivity throughout our city. The Committee is pleased to host its first Brooklyn event and given that the borough is experiencing significant economic development, it is equally important to gain greater understanding as to the needs and recommendations of its residents and business owners as it relates to the challenges to high-speed Internet access,” said Shaun Belle, Chair of the Advisory Committee and President and CEO of the innovative community development corporation, Mount Hope Housing Corporation, located in the Bronx.

“These hearings are critical to focusing broad political attention and building consensus for the need to guarantee all New Yorkers an opportunity to participate in the 21st century economy,” said Andrew Rasiej, an Advisory Committee Member and the Founder of the Personal Democracy Forum and MOUSE.

“Being connected isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Everyone from job seekers to students, from senior citizens to small business owners, needs a high-speed Internet connection today to compete and to access basic services. Borough President Marty Markowitz and I support the work of the New York City Broadband Advisory Committee, and strongly believe that if we are ever to bridge the economic divide—or the opportunity divide—we must bridge the digital divide,” said Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Yvonne Graham, representing Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“By closing the digital divide, we bring opportunity to many who are traditionally left behind, such as seniors and residents of public housing. In this day and age, a high-speed internet connection is a requirement for finding a job, enrolling in college, and many other basic chores. I thank Council Member Brewer and the Broadband Advisory Committee for all the excellent work they are doing to advance this important agenda,” said Council Member Letitia James of Brooklyn, a member of the New York City Council’s Committee on Technology in Government.

"These days, high speed internet is not just an amenity. We have to work together to find ways to provide fast and reliable internet access to all New Yorkers," said Council Member Vincent Gentile of Brooklyn.

Across the country, local governments are responding to this issue in ways that meet the specific needs of their communities. Major broadband initiatives are underway in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Houston. In his inaugural State of the State address, Governor Eliot Spitzer committed to universal, affordable access to broadband for the entire state of New York. New York City government has yet to announce its own strategy to bring universal affordable broadband to all of New York City’s 8 million residents.

US Senator Hillary Clinton, US Senator Chuck Schumer, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps all submitted statements of support for the work of the NYC Broadband Advisory Committee.

“Today, one of the greatest catalysts for fostering economic opportunity and opening up new worlds to young and old is access to the Internet. For many people, especially those in underserved communities, the digital divide has not been closed. In order for people to realize the benefits of this technology for education, employment, and training, they must have the infrastructure in place. We must help bring the power of technology into people’s lives, especially in underserved areas like Brooklyn, with the hope that every family can have the tools for success in today’s technology-rich economy,” said Senator Hillary Clinton.

“In a world that is increasingly reliant on high-speed, easily accessible Internet, not having high-speed Internet access is like not having air to breathe," said Senator Charles Schumer. "Broadband technology is the lifeblood of the new economy, and to keep New York City at the forefront of the 21st century global market, it is vital that residents, businesses and visitors in the city have access to high-speed, quality, universal Internet to connect them wherever they may be.”

Speaker Quinn said, "The Digital Divide is a serious issue facing our society, so I applaud the attention Council Member Brewer has brought to this issue. Here in New York City, many underserved communities won't survive in this new Information Age without the technical knowledge many of us take for granted. The bottom line is we need to use out-of-the box-thinking to ensure that today's technology is used to improve the future of New Yorkers. This Broadband Advisory Committee hearing, and the ones to follow in the coming months, is the first major step toward truly bridging the technology gap."

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps expressed his support of the Advisory Committee’s work. “This must be a high national priority if our communities and our country are going to be competitive and successful in the 21st century,” wrote Commissioner Copps in a note to the Advisory Committee.

The New York Council passed Local Law 126 in December 2005, a bill sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer ( The purpose of the Committee is to advise the Mayor and the City Council on how to bring an affordable high-speed Internet connection to all New York City residents, nonprofit organizations and businesses. The hearing in Brooklyn is the second in a series of five public hearings that will be convened in every borough of the City. The remaining hearings are scheduled to be held in the fall of 2007.

Currently, the United States ranks only 15th in the world for the number of broadband users per capita. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 27% of American households are still not using the Internet at all and “those with less education, those with lower household incomes, and Americans age 65 and older are less likely to have embraced broadband than those who are younger and have higher socio-economic status.”

A full list of Committee members, along with their bios, is available at the unofficial website of the NYC Broadband Advisory Committee:


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Video of the Brooklyn Hearing
Available here:

: Thomas Kamber, Lester Johnson, & Garrison Phillips (OATS)

PART 2: Greg Sutton & Carlos Pareja (BCAT)

PART 3: Yvonne Graham (Brooklyn Dep. Boro. Pres.)

PART 4A: Steven Schecter (Brooklyn Public Library)

PART 4B: Steven Schecter (Brooklyn Public Library)

PART 5: Bill DeBlasio (NYC Council)

PART 6: Michael Sanon (high school student)

PART 7: Ed Michaels (formerly unemployed)

PART 8: Yamel Young & Jazmin Williams (high school students)

PART 9: Akosua Albritton (Our Time Press)

PART 10: Luis Rivera (Southwest Brooklyn IDC)

PART 11A: Adiatu Tarawaley (Non Profit Helpdesk)

PART 11B: Adiatu Tarawaley (Non Profit Helpdesk)

PART 12: Marc Baizman (NPower New York)

PART 13: Steve D'Agustino (Fordham University RETC)

PART 14: David Elcock (Dot Org Technologies)

PART 15A: Michael Dillon (IBM)

PART 15B: Michael Dillon (IBM)

PART 16: Barney Lehrer (Federation Of International Trade Assns.)

PART 17: Bruce Kushnick (TeleTruth)

PART 18: Hector Munoz (LISTA)

PART 19: Don Chesley (Stevens Inst. of Technology)

PART 20: Andrew Martin (DOROT)

PART 21: Matthew Elsner (Brooklynite)

PART 22A: Antwuan Wallace (Graduate Student)

PART 22B: Antwuan Wallace (Graduate Student)

PART 23: Conclusion - David Birdsell, Gale Brewer, Shaun Belle

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Press coverage

Here are are some articles about the Broadband Advisory Committee and the Brooklyn hearing:

NY Daily News
The New York Times

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A word from...

Eliot Spitzer

"In the 21st Century, Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. The economic, education, health, security, government efficiency and social benefits from universal broadband access are limitless. That is why the efforts of the New York City Broadband Advisory Committee are so important. Together, we must make sure that every New Yorker has access to affordable high-speed Internet."

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Brooklyn Hearing - May 22

We have finalized the date, time and place for the Brooklyn hearing, the second step of our series of public hearings.

Tuesday, May 22nd from Noon to 3 pm
Where: Courtroom hearing room of Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon St, Downtown Brooklyn
Subway: Conveniently located next to the Borough Hall stop on the 2/3 and 4/5 lines; and within walking distance of the the Borough Hall stop on the A/C and F lines and the Court St. stop on the R and M lines

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Brooklyn Hearing flyer

Below is the flyer of the Brooklyn Hearing.
If you would like a copy, please feel free to let us know!

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Broadband Briefing Paper

A briefing paper providing general information on broadband in New York is available here.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

The Future of Digital New York City

Bruce Lai, Chief of Staff to Council Member gale A. Brewer published an article on "the Future of Digital New York City" in the Huffington Post.

Here is the link to the article.

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Broadband Advisory Committee Meeting 4/17/2007

The Broadband Advisory Committee held a meeting on April 17, 2007.

Here are the minutes:

"The following members of the Broadband Advisory Committee were present: Mitchel Ahlbaum, Shaun Belle, David Birdsell, Tom Dunne, Avi Duvdevani, Wendy Lader, Jose L. Rodriguez, Howard Szarfarc, Anthony Townsend, David Wicks.

Gale Brewer welcomed all of the attendees and briefly commented on the success of the Bronx public hearing.

Wendy Lader opened up requesting nominations for Chair of the Committee. Shaun Belle was nominated by Wendy, seconded by Tom Dunne. A vote was taken on the nomination, which was unanimously approved.

The next hearing is likely to take place on May 22, 2007 in Brooklyn Borough Hall. City Council staff will confirm this date soon with the members."

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A word from Shaun Belle

A word from Shaun Belle, Chair of the Committee:

"First, I am honored to be a member of the NYC Broadband Advisory Committee and to have been elected Committee Chair at the April 17,2007 meeting. I value the opportunity to work with City Council Member and Technology Chair, Gail Brewer and a committee comprised of prestigious leaders in the field of Broadband Technology, Education and Telecommunications.

The establishment of the Broadband Advisory Committee as provided by Local Law 126, will afford the committee an opportunity to engage the general public and citywide experts in exploring the status of the Broadband platform, its applications and users throughout New York City.

As Broadband Advisory Committee Chair, my commitment is to utilize the expertise of our committee members to advise the Mayor and City Council Speaker as to what options are available to New York City government and private sector as it seeks to develop a systematic approach to developing a citywide strategy to address the access to Broadband technologies . It is our intention to examine opportunities that will facilitate both broadband access and deployment as a platform to foster education, business development and e-community resources for New Yorkers and in particular those who have been historically impacted by the digital divide."

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"City Leaders Think NYC's Middle Class Is Screwed"

An article from Jen Chung in the Gothamist:

The Drum Major Institute released a study titled "Saving Our Middle Class", which suggests that NYC's middle class continues to be under more and more strain. DMI surveyed a number of city leaders and found:

- It's harder to enter the middle class: 92% "agree that it is harder to enter the middle class today than it was ten years ago."

- They believe middle-class income is now between $75,000 and $135,000 for families of four (it's between $45,000 and $90,000 for single individuals), while NYC median income is $49,374 a year.
- Essentials of middle-class standards of living include health insurance, owning a computer with internet access, holding a full-time job, and sending children to a quality public school.

- Only a third found that owning a house, condo or co-op is a middle-class essential.

- Affordable rent and health insurance are big challenges for the middle classn.

Take the Poll

And the results were released during the DMI's conference about the middle class yesterday. In what the NY Sun and NY Times both called a preview of the 2009 mayoral race, City Comptroller William Thompson, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion and Representative Anthony Weiner were present; City Councilman John Liu was also there (he wasn't mentioned in the Times). Wei! ner apparently sparred with both Liu and Carrion; Thompson wasn't on their panel, but he did mention the "barbell effect" - "low-income people and higher-income people expanding, and those in the middle being squeezed" (via the Times).

Baruch public-affairs professor Douglas Muzzio told the Sun the middle class "has to be" a major issue in the 2009 mayoral race.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Bronx Hearing - Testimonies

You will find below testimonies from the Bronx Hearing held on March 30.
Click on "Read More" to see each testimony.

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Kayza Kleinman
Director, Nonprofit Helpdesk
Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island

Good Morning

My name is Kayza Kleinman, and I am the director of the Nonprofit Helpdesk, which provides Technology and Fiscal Management services to nonprofit organizations throughout the city, including those in the Bronx. Our almost two decades in the field has given us a thorough insight into the needs of the organizations who serve the community.

In order to understand the need, it=s important to understand the community. In 2002, approximately 10 percent of all households in the Bronx consisted of seniors living alone. Over 20% of the population has some disability, this is a really significant number.

With over 64% of all households not having access to a car, and public transportation not being ideal, that translates to a very large number of people who are going to have trouble getting around - whether to a government office, a library, or to a job.

That undoubtedly is a real factor in some troubling statistics. Close to 18% of all female headed households with children under five lived under the poverty line. While 70% of the adult population without disabilities was employed, only 31.9% of those with disabilities was employed. Almost 69% of seniors live under the poverty line, and that does not even take into account the higher incidence of high medical related expenses incurred in that group.

(All numbers have been taken from the US Census Bureau=s American Community Survey for 2002)

The community, and the organizations that serve it, need every tool they can get in trying to deal with the problems presented by these realities. Stable, reliable, fast, affordable broadband connections are one such tool.


On an individual level, there are two major areas where broadband can be very valuable. Firstly, it makes tele-commuting, either part of the time, or even full time, a realistic possibility. It=s not hard to understand what this can mean to people with limited mobility, or for parents with few affordable child-care options. Keep in mind that if a parent needs to pay almost as much per hour for child care as she earns, working is not practical. But, if she only needs to do that for a small number of the hours she works, that can drastically change the situation. Similarly, if someone has other mobility issues, the trek to work would not be feasibly every day, but might be manageable once a week, making even a part time tele-commuting arrangement a viable option for many people who could not manage working full time at an employer=s location.

The second area that broadband could improve is access to information and services. While internet access cannot entirely replace the need for visits to government or CBO offices to gain access to services, being able to find out what services are available, what you need to do to apply, sometimes even to get the forms you need to fill out, and to find out who can give you the help you need to get those services can make all the difference in the world. This is true even for people with no major challenges. Think about what it means to someone with young children, and no childcare or someone who can=t get down the stairs to the local subway. But, it=s not just government services. IT=s medical information, safety information etc. And, it=s education, as well. A person who may not be able to travel to school for some reason could still get the education they need to move beyond the limited circumstances they find themselves in, and get a chance to move up.

On an organizational level, the issue of access to information and services is also crucial. Organizations need to be able to access information about a range of items - government grants, services available to their constituencies, information about regulations and legal issues affecting their constituents and themselves.

But, there is far more to be gained. The internet offers powerful tools for organizations in pursuing their goals - tool for advocacy, collaboration with others, outreach to their constituencies, and public education. But, mist are not realistically usable without broadband connections.

And then there is the issue of government and funder mandates. Many, many funders require the use, to some extent or other, of the internet as part of their reporting requirements. In most cases, these requirements mean that it is not possible to record services, or sometimes even fill out applications, unless a fast, stable internet connection is constantly available. I have seen first hand, how disruptive an internet outage can be to an organization that must process this kind of information on line. I have also seen, first hand, how cavalier some companies can be about such problems, with little concern for the hardships posed to their customers.

What it all comes down to is that broadband access is no longer a luxury. It has become an extremely important tool in the fight against poverty and hardship. Organizations and individuals need access to connections that are affordable, fast and reliable. While the City cannot wave a magic wand and make that happen, it is truly important that it use all the tools available to encourage the provision of such service, as well as a responsible attitude on the part of internet service providers.

Thank you

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Andrew Gallagher
Public school teacher from the Bronx

Good morning, my name is Andrew Gallagher and I am an Instructional Technology Coach at The Bronx Writing Academy. On behalf of the students and staff of our school, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.

Our school was founded in 2004, with the aim of developing the literacy skills of our student community through a variety of educational opportunities. One proven strategy, is the effective use of technology in every subject area. In less than 3 years, we have moved from a school using minimal technology, with a faculty reluctant to integrate technology tools, and where the relevance of technology resources was undervalued, to a school working to fulfill the demands of an increasingly tech-savvy faculty, and “tech-hungry” student body. We have increased our technology equipment each year in an effort to meet these demands. We have been recognized, with several honors, for our after-school Technology program called MOUSE Squad. For those unfamiliar with MOUSE Squad, this is a program that provides students with leadership, technology, and soft skills such as teamwork, collaboration, project management, and communication, in order for them to provide technology support in their school. In June of 2006, we were awarded MOUSE Squad of the Year and, just six months ago, we had the privilege of welcoming Bronx Borough President, Mr. Carrion, to our school to receive a proclamation. The Borough President was able to see, first-hand, some amazing Internet resources being utilized. At the same time, he was able to speak to students and staff regarding the limitations we face each day, in terms of bringing these resources to our students. Access to a reliable, high-speed Internet connection, and the ability to maintain an outdated Internet infrastructure persists within our school, and similar schools throughout the Bronx. So again, we thank Mr. Carrion for the financial commitment he made to the Bronx Writing Academy.

Equitable access to the World Wide Web, and the wealth of information available through the Internet is, without doubt, one of the most significant issues facing our school system today. Nowhere is this more apparent than in under-served, underprivileged schools, such as The Bronx Writing Academy. Eighty percent of our students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, and the implications of this extend beyond the school, into the homes and living environments of each of those students. Interestingly, only 20% of our parents indicated their children have computer and Internet access at home.

BWA is fortunate to have collegial teams of highly dedicated, creative teachers, who continue to integrate technology tools into their curriculum, with the aim of providing authentic, relevant skills in all subject areas. On any given day, however, there is a very real sense of uncertainty in terms of whether the Internet and the resources they have spent so long collecting, will be available due to the adverse affects of our poor wireless Internet connection. The hard work, and increased interest our staff demonstrates, signifies how relevant they believe the use of technology is across the curriculum. The superb efforts of our MOUSE Squad students in supporting the use of Technology and maintaining or repairing equipment, indicates the high level of interest they have in technology. And, the creation of my own role demonstrates the commitment of our Principal and faculty, and what can be achieved in a relatively short period of time. As a result, we have exhibited continuous improvements in ELA and Math test scores, for three years in a row. In ELA, we have moved from 22% of students at proficiency level in 2004, to over 30% in 2006. Similarly, our Math scores indicate a 7 percent increase for the same period. In addition, we have reduced the number of students performing at the lowest levels in both ELA and Math (a 21.4% and 9.3% decrease respectively). This is, in no small part, due to the commitment of students and teachers alike to address differentiated instruction through the increased, effective use of technology tools.

We have made, and continue to make significant strides in terms of technology integration, yet there remains a great deal to achieve at the Bronx Writing Academy, and schools throughout our borough. In order to continue in the same vein, and provide the very best educational resources, it is absolutely necessary for our students and faculty to have access to a reliable, high-speed Internet connection. Within each classroom, at any point of the instructional day, there is a genuine concern our ideas will not be realized because the infrastructure cannot cope with more than 30 students accessing the same website at the same time.

Current, and future generations will require relevant 21st century ICT skills in order to enter a workforce increasingly driven by technology. The Internet, World Wide Web, and technology tools will continue to play a vital role in developing social skills, and very real understandings of the world beyond the Bronx, New York City, and the USA. To deny students opportunities to a reliable Internet connection, both in school and their home environments, is to deny opportunities to develop those skills necessary to succeed in any number of professions.

The emergence of new technology tools such as PodCasting, blogging, safe networking sites such as or e-Chalk, and the vast array of interactive online activities, increasingly demands the attention of both students and teachers as a way to enhance learning opportunities. The reasons for this are clear!

• The variety of online resources appeals to the multiple intelligences of our diverse student populations!
• Internet tools provide platforms for authentic and relevant Inquiry, Constructivist, Problem-based and Project-based learning.
• Students are provided opportunities to participate in learning beyond the textbook!
• Differentiated instruction becomes a tangible reality for teachers and students alike!
• The numerous possibilities to communicate with peers, contemporaries, and mentors throughout the world.
• The ability to produce publishable work available to a global audience becomes a reality!
• And, the Internet allows students to research and investigate beyond their immediate environment in order to return answers, data and information truly relevant to their lives.

All of these possibilities, however, will remain undiscovered if connection issues remain a low priority. It is inconceivable that textbooks, paper, pens, pencils, or worksheets would not be provided to students. All are, quite rightly, a necessity within any school environment. Yet, there remains a barrier, or reluctance, to accept that as part of our current, technology-driven world, Internet access is not viewed as an equally significant resource, relevant to each and every one of our students.

The Digital Divide continues to dominate the lives of students throughout the Bronx, but no longer is this divide solely centered on issues of purchasing equipment, or being able to afford working computers and software. There is now the added issue of access to the vast array of online resources, communication tools, interactive websites, and authoring tools available via the Internet. As educators, policy makers, budget controllers, and concerned citizens of New York City, we must support the notion that our student communities need to work in environments where high-speed Internet access is viewed as a truly vital element in their educational development.

If ever there is a doubt concerning the significance and relevance of Internet resources, and the high-speed connections needed to access them, please visit any classroom in any of our city schools. Speak to students about the possibilities they see through increased use of the Internet, and the disparity of availability they know exists between themselves, and those students in rural school districts.

Thank you again for your time, and for allowing me the opportunity to present a case for improving the Internet infrastructure of our city public schools. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.

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Angel Aracena
M.A., Director of Educational Technology for West Farms Technology & Career Center, Bronx

Aracena: Good afternoon members of the panel and Honorable NYC Council Members, my name is Angel Aracena, M.A., and I am here representing Phipps Community Development Corporation. I am the Director of Educational Technology at the West Farms Technology & Career Center.

My job is to ensure that the members of the Bronx community, where I am situated, have access to the Internet and computer classes such as Microsoft Office applications, Photoshop and other media software, Internet and e-mail training, and open lab access to our computers.

West Farms services 500 people a week through a variety of programs housed in the same building that include an Employment Program, an ESL & Literacy Program, and the Educational Technology Program. It is the dynamic interplay between these programs that sustains our center as a necessary community resource hub resulting in high retention rates of students and clients seeking computer and Internet training. Not only is the Educational Technology Program a stand-alone program that offers bilingual classes, it also supports and is responsible for integrating technology into our other programs.

The West Farms Technology & Career Center also has its own web site (, apart from Phipps Houses, our parent company, and is approaching 4000 visits a month. WFTCC has proven itself to be a valuable dynamic resource for the community it serves directly and for many people throughout the Bronx and New York City, for we also have students that commute from Queens, as deep as Bayside, and all parts of Manhattan to receive our free services. Phipps can continue to provide these services with the support of government grants and funds so that we may duplicate our proven model and most especially, improve our Internet and technology services and classes.

To cut short my testimony, I am also here to offer my recommendations when the city moves forward with accessible and affordable Broadband access for all of New York City. I think it’s a great idea to make Broadband Internet access affordable and more available. However, not only do our students stand to benefit greatly from such widespread availability of broadband, this access also presents dangers of which we hear of so often in the media in the form of tragedies. Broadband should be set up with safety parameters and to also include classes and training for parents and professionals on the dangers of the Internet. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that 1 in 7 young people are sexually solicited or approached online (Source). We must do more to ensure the safety of our city’s youth as we progress into a technological culture.

My last recommendation stems from my experience working at WFTCC. Childcare is an obstacle that prevents parents and single parents from taking advantage of community resources. If more childcare services were available to parents, the amount of people the West Farms Technology & Career Center could service would increase tremendously. Thank you.

Facilitator; David Birdsell: Thank you for your comments. Are there any questions for Mr. Aracena?

Hon. Brewer: Phipps Houses is a great organization and I commend the work that you’re doing. Could you please tell us what percentages of the people you serve have computers and Internet access at home and do you feel these services are necessary?

Aracena: Some 60% of our students and clients have computers but only 25% of them are able to pay for and sustain an Internet connection. For the students in our city and the parents that work hard for them, access to affordable Internet services is crucial for them.

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Seth Johnson
Coordinator, Dynamic Platform Standards Project

The problem of access to high speed Internet comes in large part from the fact that the incumbent phone and cable providers don't want to deliver the Internet at high speed.

The Internet, as defined by standards, is generic and flexible with respect to application development by end users. Nearly whatever pattern of communication I can create, it supports. It gives everybody that. It is at bottom a way of communicating that lets anybody who connects to innovate -- to turn their connection into a unique way of publishing, transferring or working with information between themselves and other users -- or to use applications other users on the Internet have developed to make one's connection do the unique things one wants to do.

Once they get connected -- and that's what you're addressing -- the fact that people have so far been able to expect uniform treatment of information flow comes from the Internet's fundamental design. It's not that everybody follows a policy of equality -- it comes from how transmissions were designed at the IP layer by consensus standards. In order to support all sorts of things that you could come up with, the Internet platform turns everything you do into little pieces and the pieces are sent independently from each other through whatever routers get them to where they need to go -- whether those routers are controlled by the incumbents or not -- so they can reach Internet-connected computers across the entire world. Then on the
other end you pull the pieces together and put them in the order and structure you want. This is the same technique of digitizing information into little pieces that your computer uses to support innovation. All the routers on the Internet get along by doing this. Please the materials on the Dynamic Platform Standards Project site, at, for more details.

This is the kind of connectivity that this committee needs to be sure to get access to. Providers can offer other things, but you need to make sure that Internet connectivity is the policy objective, and other things aren't allowed to be presented as if they are the same

The problem is that the incumbents have stated they don't want to do this. They want to be able to set different prices for different applications and services that they provide, and if they do this, shape transmissions according to their own applications, they will sacrifice the flexibility and genericity of the platform that everyone connected to the Net has available to them.

The incumbents will drag their heels until we tell them directly that the real Internet is what we want, not something else, like FiOS, just because they're giving us a little more speed.

You want to have signal delivered at the infrastructure level just as it is under common carriage; you don't want to allow the standards to be overridden by providers in a market position to offer something else and call that Internet access; and you want to let end users do
all the things they've become accustomed to being able to do above that.

Finally, I want to call your attention to the comments submitted by the New York Chapter of the Internet Society to the Federal Trade Commission's recent public workshop on "Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy" ( -- ISOC NY comment at, which alludes to some of these same points. I would recommend that the Internet Society and the Internet Engineering Task Force be a part of this committee. We won't be able to develop the kind of flexible standards that have given us the Internet and the World Wide Web, let alone assure the empowerment that access to the Internet can provide to all communities, unless we are specific about the nature and advantages of the current platform and about framing the policy issues this committee is addressing in those terms.

Thank you.

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Joshua Breitbart
Policy Director for People's Production House (PPH)

Good morning. My name is Joshua Breitbart. I am the Policy Director for People’s Production House (PPH). PPH trains middle and high school students in public schools and low-wage and immigrant workers from across the city to be radio journalists. That includes analyzing how the media works and learning how to change it.

I would like to thank you, the members of the Broadband Advisory Committee, for holding this public hearing. I would also like to thank Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Bronx Community College, and the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation for hosting this event, and Council Member Gale Brewer for her work initiating this process.

PPH and its partners have a stake in this discussion because the Internet is the most promising outlet to distribute the kind of immediate, hyper-local content our partners produce. Licensed space on the radio dial is limited, especially in this town. Television also has a high barrier to entry. Newspapers are more open, but they aren’t so good for audio recordings.

The Internet is an accessible, two-way, multi-format medium. At least it could be accessible, which is why I say it’s “promising.” A lot of the people we work with don’t have the kind of meaningful access to the Internet that would allow them to make and distribute their own content and to receive the content of their peers. We would like you to help us do something about that.

I don’t know as much about broadband in New York City as you all do, but in some circles I am considered a knowledgeable person about these issues. I write for a think tank and an industry publication. I’ve testified before a city council, spoken to the media, and given presentations at conferences. I am a principal in a small consultancy. But I’m not going to tell you what I think meaningful broadband infrastructure looks like for New York City.

The most important thing I’ve learned about municipal broadband as I’ve observed and analyzed the processes in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Boston, and elsewhere is that there is no cookie-cutter solution, no easy answer. The critical thing to finding the right solution is having the right process of working towards that solution.

Here are the keys, as I’ve come to understand them, to a healthy process, one that minimizes conflicts and leads to solid results:

• Sustain open participation beyond the initial public hearing stage, through the entire process and continuing even a solution is implemented.

• Promote horizontal relationships among stakeholders rather than hub-and-spoke relationships that all connect to this committee or to any one person or organization.

• Unite stakeholders around shared technology rather than dividing them into tiers.

• Incorporate existing human resources wherever possible to avoid redundancy and to build on existing relationships.

• Be open with whatever information you gather: publish documents, test results, and regular updates on an accessible website and make them readily available to people without Internet access.

The fact is, the people that have the most at stake in this discussion are not folks like me, white dudes with laptops and DSL connections at home. It’s the folks who have no access, or very limited access to the Internet. People’s Production House has a corps of eager reporters ready to work with you to engage that constituency.

This hearing is a great first step in that direction. It’s the first time that I know of that the general public of New York City has been invited to dream about what broadband might look like in our city. I am excited to see where this takes us.

In closing, again, I would like to thank all of the members of this Committee for your time and energy and for your commitment to New York’s communications future.

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