New York Mayor Addresses His Commitment to Digital

Wants global broadband access, more STEM education for residents

Brooklyn is now the second fastest growing tech county in the U.S., and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to make sure it and the rest of the five boroughs become the prime locations for the industry. 

Hizzoner emphasized his commitment to the digital space during his keynote address at Internet Week New York 2014 by announcing plans to expand Web access and new investments towards training talent.

"Technology is critical to New York's place as a 21st Century city. Not just because tech brings lots of investment and jobs—but because successful cities have always thrived on the disruption new technology brings," de Blasio said. "New York kept its position as global leader by moving forward with technological and economic advances, and this administration is committed to doing everything to expand our talent pool and develop our innovation economy."

The tech sector employs about 291,000 New Yorkers and pays about $30 billion in wages each year, according to the Mayor's office. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg had been a supporter of the digital space, so many were interested in whether his successor would retain the same commitment. 

De Blasio's plans included the Harlem Wi-Fi Network, which will stretch 95 city blocks and provide access for about 80,000 residents when completed this summer. It is poised to become the largest free outdoor public wireless network in the country. Further initiatives include converting 10,000 pay phones into Internet hotspots and proposals to expand broadband access to all New Yorkers living in public housing. The major also expressed a desire to take on the telecom industry, saying that the city would look into Verizon Fios and Time Warner Cable agreements and "hold them accountable for providing the kind of service they're obligated to."

"This speaks to his global desire for universal access," Kyle Kimball, president and CEO for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is in charge of many of the initiatives, told Adweek.

Kimball added that while the WiFi network in Harlem will be free, it remains to be seen whether all access will be gratis. He admitted that Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island have fewer programs, but the Mayor's office hopes to bolster offerings in the near future. 

De Blasio announced a project called the Tech Talent Pipeline, intended to train New Yorkers for tech careers. The project—which will receive $10 million over three years—will be paid for with a combination of city, state, federal and private funding. New York will also become the first city in the U.S. to have a top level domain—.nyc—which de Blasio hopes will encourage businesses, groups and residents to support local digital causes.

New York City is also investing in the future by funding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at the public high school and college levels. At high schools, special classes will be dedicated towards teaching teens the beginning to end process of the app industry, from how to build the technology to the business pitch. In addition, the de Blasio administration will dedicate $20 million during the 2015 fiscal year towards CUNY community college STEM students, with plans to increase that figure to $50 million in the upcoming years.

"We have to focus on homegrown talent …. We want to give these students the opportunities to start businesses and get the right mentorship," Kimball explained.