- Three companies are in the running to test their proposals for high-speed Wi-Fi and 5G cellular technology on Governors Island in New York City: Neutral Connect Networks LLC of West Palm Beach, FL; Fiberless Networks of Quincy, MA; and local firm Edge Fibernet. They are competing in the first-ever citywide "Moonshot Challenge" through the NYCx program.
- "I’m excited to see new tools and technologies breaking ground in New York and helping us move a step closer to achieving the Mayor’s goal of affordable, high-quality, high-speed internet for all New Yorkers," said Miguel Gamiño, Jr., New York City Chief Technology Officer, in a statement. "This Moonshot Challenge is helping us engage the right experts to accelerate connectivity, establish fair opportunity for everyone to participate in today’s world, and make tech work for people."
- The three finalists will spend the next few months working with the nonprofit Trust for Governors Island and the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer to test out their solutions, and each received up to $25,000 to do so. A winner will be chosen in time for the next public season this summer.
Governors Island has gained a reputation for having poor cell phone reception, to the point that the National Park Service recommends visitors download the content from its official app for the area to their cell phone or tablet before they arrive.
And local officials appear to see that improving connectivity on Governors Island will help link that area of New York City to the other boroughs. City Council Member Peter Koo, chair of the Committee on Technology, said this initiative will make sure the island "lives up to its potential as a world class location that connects the five boroughs in more ways than one."
This "moonshot" initiative by Mayor Bill de Blasio shows a willingness by a municipal government to work with innovative companies from across the country to improve technology offerings. Local officials appear less willing to accept areas that have poor internet access, especially given how integral it has become to improving residents’ lives. "Internet access is now a critical link to economic opportunity," said James Patchett, New York City Economic Development Corp. president and CEO, in a statement.
So far, 5G trials and experiments appear to have been on a small scale, as both Verizon and AT&T are looking to roll it out to test markets. Having firms large and small compete to provide service on a municipal level could be the next step as more and more devices in cities look to connect to a finite amount of mobile internet data.