While a "digital divide" exists between low- and high-income New Yorkers, the city is on par with the most tech-savvy American and international municipalities in broadband use among residents and businesses, a new report commissioned by the city government found.
At a public forum at City Hall yesterday, representatives of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants, which wrote the report, briefed the city's Broadband Advisory Committee on their findings. According to the report, 46.4% of New Yorkers have broadband, in line with the national average of 45.1% and comparable to major cities such as Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago. In addition, broadband use among businesses is significantly cheaper in New York than in many cities worldwide, such as Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Nonetheless, a problematic digital divide exists between low- and high-income residents and among the five boroughs, the report said. Staten Island is the most digitally equipped borough, with 57.9% of residents using broadband, while the Bronx lags the rest of the city, with 38% of residents using it.
More than 666,000 low-income households in New York lack broadband, and the problem is especially concentrated in public housing, where 26% of residents have broadband in their homes, including 5% of public housing residents over the age of 65.
Some cities, such as Philadelphia and Minneapolis, have sought to reduce such disparities by subsidizing citywide wireless broadband service. The report concluded that such a plan would likely be ineffective in New York, as 98% of the city is equipped for broadband service already. It could also be counterproductive, the report said, because the technology behind such large-scale projects could quickly become obsolete.
Instead, the report recommended targeting areas in which broadband is most underused, such as public housing, with programs that encourage more computer ownership, improve computer literacy, and bring down the costs of broadband.