Aug. 1, 2022 By Czarinna Andres
Councilmember Julie Won who ran for office last year on a platform of bridging the digital divide was at the Woodside Houses NYCHA complex Saturday signing residents up for free Wifi.
The council member was helping residents sign up to a federal program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides free Wifi to public housing residents and low-income families across the nation.
Nearly 300 people attended Won’s event where she was also joined by Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
“I began my journey into government with the mission to get all of our NYCHA neighbors free WiFi,” Won said. “COVID-19 proved that WiFi should be a public utility.”
Won’s event served to help NYCHA residents sign up for ACP, where eligible households get free service or $30/month credited toward their bill.
Many people, however, are eligible for the program–not just NYCHA residents. New Yorkers who earn below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines or are enrolled in Medicaid, SNAP, National School Lunch, and veterans’ pensions are also eligible.
The APC was funded through the passage of the the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2021, which included $65-billion earmarked specifically for broadband infrastructure.
I began my journey into government with the mission to get all of our NYCHA neighbors free WiFi. COVID-19 proved that WiFi should be a public utility. Today, we kicked off the NYCHA registrations for the ACP to provide free home WiFi for all of our Woodside Houses neighbors (1/2) pic.twitter.com/R6UTmxEHnl
— Julie Won ✨ (@juliej_won) July 31, 2022
Won will be visiting different NYCHA developments throughout her district in coming weeks to help spread the word and to get residents to register for the program.
She plans enrollment events at Queensbridge Houses on Aug. 20 and Ravenswood Houses on Aug. 27.
In addition to the registration events, Won’s council office has partnered with local nonprofit partners—such as Sunnyside Community Services–to help with registrations to ensure that all eligible residents can receive the ACP WiFi subsidy.
Won said that in the 26th Council District that she represents—which includes Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, and Dutch Kills—one in four residents go without high-speed internet.
Won said that 1.5 million New Yorkers currently lack at-home internet access because they simply cannot afford it. She said that closing the digital divide is essential to ensuring a just economic recovery.
Nearly all government services — including vaccination scheduling and unemployment benefits — are accessible exclusively online, she said. Job applications as well as many office jobs have made the leap to being fully remote.
Won said that inequalities in housing are now being exacerbated by the digital divide. Black New Yorkers are nearly twice as likely to go without internet access than their white neighbors, and more Hispanic families are without internet than any other ethnic group.