New York City launches the largest free public Wi-Fi network in U.S.

Imagine if the City of Vancouver blanketed the Downtown Eastside with free wireless Internet access? If our city hall ever decides to go down that path, local officials could look to New York City for a model.

The City of New York announced today (December 10) the launch of what it's calling the largest continuous free public Wi-Fi network in the United States. The Harlem Wi-Fi network will cover 95 city blocks, extending from 110th Street to 138th Street and between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Madison Avenue. That area is home to 80,000 residents, including 13,000 in public housing, and many businesses.

“Our new Harlem wireless network brings critical connectivity to residents and visitors, giving them 24/7 access to everything from education materials for kids, to information about Harlem’s rich history and attractions, to everyday needs like paying bills, checking library hours – or even just keeping tabs on the Knicks and Nets,” outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news release.

The Wi-Fi network will be installed in three phases scheduled for completion in December 2013, February 2014, and May 2014. It will operate 24/7 and offer unlimited access, according to the release. Made possible by a donation from the Fuhrman Family Foundation to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the free network will be in place for at least five years.

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