During the presidential campaign last summer, Joe Biden released a “Plan for Rural America” calling for an investment of $20 billion to expand broadband internet access in rural communities, where, the plan noted, residents are 10 times more likely than urbanites to live without a high-speed internet connection. But even in America’s biggest cities, broadband access is not universal. Nor is it equitably distributed.
In New York, according to a 2018 report, around 30 percent of residents had no broadband access at home, with steep disparities along income and racial lines. More than half of the lowest-income residents lacked broadband access, according to the report. A third of Black and Hispanic residents, 32% and 33% respectively, lacked broadband at home, compared with 21% for white residents and 23% for Asian residents, according to the report. The COVID-19 pandemic of the last year and subsequent virtual schooling and Zoom meetings only heightened the urgency of providing better internet access for everyone; a report from Deutsche Bank last year found that the racial disparities within the digital divide could worsen over time, leaving Black and Hispanic people especially ill-prepared for future jobs, according to CNBC.
Last year, as Next City reported, New York released an Internet Master Plan aimed at expanding broadband access more equitably. Now, the city is making broadband access a necessary component of new affordable-housing projects that use city funds. In March, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development adopted a new set of Design Guidelines meant to “ensure newly constructed buildings promote equity, health, and sustainability,” the Department said in a press release. According to the new guidelines, whenever feasible, all new affordable housing that use city funds must be wired for high-speed internet and provide it to all tenants at no cost to them.