Editorial: New York Should Build Robert Sokota & Nick Colvin’s World’s Best Wireless Every Block Network

Put a small cell on every block in New York and you’ve built the best wireless network in the world. 25 years ago, Paul Baran was ahead of his time putting Ricochet modems on every block of my New York neighborhood, some on light poles.

The time is now ripe. Robert Sokota. Nick Colvin, CityBridge, and ZenFi have now begun putting 32-foot kiosks around the city. They have a city franchise, a demo unit in Queens, and $175 million to go to work.

I met NY Mayor Eric Adams at the opening of the Bronx Gigabit Center at the Andrew Freedman House, a community arts institution that also serves the elderly and offers job training. He was joined by New York’s CTO, Matt Fraser, and Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. All were supportive.

Fraser and Gibson both have a strong commitment to connecting everyone. The Bronx is known as the poorest borough in New York, but three decades of work by community groups have built a strong base.

The federal ACP $30 subsidy is currently supporting essentially free cable service to all New Yorkers earning less than twice the official poverty level. It’s only funded for a few years, so Fraser is actively supporting Wi-Fi and other services for the 700,000 people in City Housing and Shelters.

Jessica Rosenworcel at the FCC has signed up over 10 million families for the ACP. My belief is she will establish the program so effectively no politician will let it end.

But my record on predicting politics is dismal. I told the Washington Post I was sure the US would not force Taiwan’s TSMC to shut down Huawei because the Chinese would consider it an act of war. The US and the Taiwanese went ahead anyway and in fact war is seriously threatened.

ZenFi has an extraordinary fiber network under streets across the boroughs. They have business arrangements with all the major carriers and New York regionals. CityBridge has almost 2,000 LinkNYC kiosks in service, one of the world’s largest free Wi-Fi networks.

The business plan is to install thousands of fiber-connected kiosks/poles and rent space to up to 5 carriers on each pole. Each pole has 5 bays for radios, which each can be 10 Gbps mmWave units. That’s enough for hundreds of megabits and even gigabits in most locations. Depending on what you’re measuring, that’s 3-20 times faster than the current 5G networks.

I’ll follow this with a piece on how NY can support the build and make sure it happens.

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