Google is pledging $1 million to help the city's public library systems supply thousands of New Yorkers in all five boroughs with high speed internet connections.
Tony Marx, President of the New York Public Library, says any low income New Yorkers who are using library programs, like after school or English as a second language, are eligible to receive free wi-fi devices.
“You can come in to your branch where you're doing those programs. We'll give you a small box that you plug into an electric outlet which creates a hotspot that provides wi-fi at home,” Marx said.
The project began earlier this year with a $500,000 grant from the Knight Foundation targeting just 100 households and is believed to be one of the first of its kind.
Google’s pledge includes money to pay for data connections for 10,000 homes via the Sprint network, and 500 chromebook laptops to be distributed to young people.
When he took office almost one year ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to make broadband universal and affordable.
But a home internet connection can cost around $50, and that puts high speed out of reach for an estimated 2.9 million New Yorkers.
Maya Wiley, counsel to the mayor, expects the program to have a big impact.
“Because for those 10,000 households — which remember, will include in some instances three generations of people — it's extremely important that they will be able to get this free service,” Wiley said.
Wiley said she and Marx traveled recently to Washington to discuss the program with White House officials and with the Federal Communications Commission. If the pilot is successful, Wiley believes it could become a model for the nation.