Comptroller: Internet access gap between affluent, poor New Yorkers keeps widening
Comptroller Scott Stringer urged the Public Service Commission to consider access equity as it considers the latest telecom merger.
New census figures show poor and working class New Yorkers are even more likely to be cut out of broadband Internet access than ever before.
About 813,000 people across the five boroughs lack broadband Internet access at home, with the problem disproportionately affecting low-income residents in the South Bronx and both central and eastern Brooklyn.
"The Internet is the great equalizer, powering commerce, education and connectedness," said Comptroller Scott Stringer in a statement Monday.
"But even as more New Yorkers have access to broadband, parts of our city are continuing to be left behind," Stringer added. "We have to take steps to end the digital divide and provide high speed Internet in every neighborhood — from Bayside to the Bronx."
Overall, the city did see a slight 1 percent increase of households with broadband access between 2013 and 2014. At the same time, Stringer noted, the inequality between affluent and poorer neighborhoods has only grown.
In the last year alone, broadband access in South Bronx neighborhoods actually dropped from as high as 68 percent in 2013 to as low as 59 percent in 2014. Brownsville in Brooklyn saw a drop as well — 55 percent from an earlier 61 percent.
Stringer revealed the updated numbers at a public hearing on the proposed $56 billion merger of cable companies Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable.
The comptroller argued that the companies must prove their merger would help uphold net neutrality and a commitment to improve and expand Internet access to all New Yorkers.
"We have seen how telecommunications companies will promise to expand access as a condition of a merger, only to shirk their commitments once the merger has been approved," Stringer said in the testimony.
10 Neighborhoods with lowest rate of home broadband access (Source: U.S. Census)