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.

Read more!

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:


Read more!

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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