Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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 (http://nyccouncil.info/issues/intros_act.cfm?intro=Int%200625%2D2005). 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: http://www.nycbroadband.blogspot.com/.