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October 21, 2005
The case for universal broadband Internet access in New York City
Pointing to the efforts of politicians like Andrew Rasiej and City Councilmember Gale Brewer to bring free- or low-cost Internet access to every corner of New York City, Marcus Banks in the Gotham Gazette makes the case for universal broadband Internet access in New York City:
"Only an estimated 38% of New Yorkers currently have broadband access, but an ever-higher percentage of Internet content (such as video) requires this capability. The “digital divide” between higher and lower income communities may never be closed completely, but municipal broadband and wireless initiatives represent a concerted attempt to narrow this gap..."
According to Banks, there are at least three key reasons why universal broadband Internet access could bridge the "digital divide" and lead to an overall improvement in civic life in New York City:
"More timely access to life-saving information for emergency responders, who could download this information over wireless networks en route to the scene of an accident... Greater involvement of residents in the work of city government... Better ability of children to study at home, and to communicate with their teachers about what they discover online."
All true, no doubt, but Banks sometimes seems to mix "municipal broadband" and "wireless Internet" and "universal Internet access" -- it's one thing to offer low-cost broadband Internet access to low-income communities (e.g. cable or DSL), and it's quite another to build a massive citywide wireless Internet network (i.e. Wi-Fi).
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