Op-Ed | Link5G will help close the digital divide

These kiosks have been installed all along Third Avenue in Manhattan, with more slated to come online in the coming months. They provide Wi-Fi service and you can even charge your phone. Check the LinkNYC map

For many years, my company, Silicon Harlem, has been focusing on helping to close the digital divide in New York City. One of the biggest barriers to providing all New Yorkers high-speed internet access besides cost, is the City’s telecommunications infrastructure, which like so much in our society, is badly out of balance.

Fortunately, New York City is now moving to create universal broadband for equity. With the rollout of the latest version of the LinkNYC kiosk – Link5G – the City is moving towards bringing the latest technology and infrastructure first to those New Yorkers who need it the most. 

The deployment of the upgraded Link5G kiosk provides an opportunity for all New Yorkers to access — free outdoor high-speed Wi-Fi, free phone calls, charging devices, community updates, and 5G wireless capability. Link5G brings the critical infrastructure needed to increase broadband access, by allowing more broadband providers to deliver affordable services to more neighborhoods. At the critical time of implementing universal broadband, Link5G is one step forward to supporting broadband in the home, affordable devices, access to advanced technology, and a commitment to be future ready for all.

Traditionally, cutting edge technology is first deployed in high-income neighborhoods, however, the Link5G opportunity aims to deploy new kiosks in areas of NYC where it is needed the most. 90% of new kiosks will be deployed north of 96th Street and outside of Manhattan with at least 739 kiosks placed in equity districts where broadband coverage is currently lacking. This new infrastructure will be placed where it can help more New Yorkers get access to high-speed broadband services. 

Ultimately, this is about more than just access to the internet and technology — it’s about who gets access to economic opportunity.  A recent report by Deloitte found that increased broadband penetration and greater high-speed broadband availability lead to economic growth.

Now more than ever, access to high quality broadband is a necessity for businesses and people. As new businesses are born, they look to establish themselves in areas with low cost, high quality internet. The growth in small businesses is the backbone of our communities. Thriving small businesses in our communities drives jobs and opportunity.

While many are focused on the Link5G kiosks above ground, it’s the fiber investment below ground that is just as critical to bridging the digital divide. Link5G is an investment in long-term economic prosperity, just like building roads or bridges. Having affordable broadband in the home is an essential piece of bridging the digital divide, and the infrastructure that will be created by Link5G will be an important step in making sure we are able to reach more homes across NYC.

The City is committed to expand broadband access across the five boroughs and meet its digital equity and economic development goals. Using the Link5G program to advance these objectives can be part of the solution and ensure we have the pathway to a more equitable digital future for New Yorkers.

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