Councilwoman launches free WiFi campaign at the Woodside Houses to narrow the digital divide

Councilwoman Julie Won launches her campaign to bring free WiFi access to NYCHA residents beginning with a registration event at the Woodside Houses. (Courtesy of Won’s office)

Making good on her campaign promise last year to bridge the digital divide for NYCHA residents in her district, Councilwoman Julie Won launched her campaign to bring free WiFi with a sign-up event at the Woodside Houses.

More than 300 residents participated in the event on Saturday, July 30, and signed onto the Federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) during the Woodside Houses Friends & Family Day that drew Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez, Comptroller Brad Lander, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

“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. As a new mom, no mother should be forced to choose between food on their table and access to hybrid learning for their child.”

Won explained that inequalities in housing are now being exacerbated by the digital divide. According to Won, 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. In heavily working-class neighborhoods like Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Corona, 17% of households lack high-speed internet while over 90% of residents in Middle Village have access to broadband, Won said, adding that in her district — which is comprised of Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and Dutch Kills — one in four residents go without high-speed internet.

The ACP provides a subsidy for high-speed internet to many qualifying New Yorkers allowing subscribers to receive free internet access or apply the subsidy savings to their existing bill. Under ACP, individuals — including those who have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or any member of the household, those enrolled in public housing, Medicaid, SNAP, National School Lunch, and veterans pensions — are eligible for this service.

Won will hold registration events at the Queensbridge Houses on Saturday, August 20, and at the Ravenswood Houses on Saturday, August 27.

“I want to thank our nonprofit partners at EducationSuperHighway, Sunnyside Community Services, Riis Settlement House, and Community Capacity Development for helping us make WiFi registration available to our constituents all year long,” Won said. “We look forward to registering Queensbridge Houses and Ravenswood Houses residents for free WiFi in the upcoming weeks.”