Tech and the City

DUMBO, Where the Streets are Paved With Free Internet

marty markowitz DUMBO, Where the Streets are Paved With Free Internet

The president of Brooklyn. Photo: Getty

Free wifi is now available Down Under the Manhattan Bridge. Sometimes known as Silicon Beach, sometimes known as the headquarters of Etsy–one of New York’s highest profile start-ups and a revenue-generating business–the neighborhood is arguably the first in New York City to offer free internet access in streets, parks and plazas. “For the first time in New York City, an entire area has become a hot spot–a haven for bloggers, Tweeters, emailers, Facebookers and everyone else who thrives on the internet,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in a press release. “One day, mark my words, this area will rival Silicon Valley in terms of high tech ingenuity – so it’s only natural that DUMBO is the first neighborhood to be truly connected 24/7.”

We can’t imagine sitting on a bench with a laptop in this heat, but universal wifi is an encouraging trend. Broadband infrastructure is considered by some, including Fred Wilson, to be essential to making New York a tech hub, but Mayor Mike Bloomberg has dismissed city-wide wifi as too expensive and complex for the city to get involved with. One company, Towerstream, has an ambitious plan to turn on 1,000 wireless routers in June that would blanket seven miles of the city and serve as a backup for carriers supporting smartphones connected over increasingly bogged-down 3G networks. Almost universal; not free.

The DUMBO initiative was spearheaded by the local Business Improvement District, the non-profit NYC Wireless, and local real estate holding company Two Trees Management Co., which owns most of the neighborhood as well as a substantial amount of commercial space on the Brooklyn waterfront.

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