New York City rolling out nation's largest free, public Wi-Fi network

The Big Apple has big plans for public Wi-Fi as it rolls out a network that will cover 95 city blocks in Harlem and provide coverage to 80,000 residents as well as businesses and visitors to the area.

The office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg claims Harlem WiFi will be the largest continuous free outdoor public wireless network in the United States.

The network will be deployed in three phases starting this month. The final phase is slated for completion in May 2014. The project is being overseeing by the city's Technology Development Corporation and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, which are working with technology provider Sky-Packets on the deployment.

The free network, which has an initial five-year term of service, is being funded by the Fuhrman Family Foundation. Increasing wireless is a key component of the Bloomberg administration's efforts to ensure digital inclusion, said Rahul Merchant, city chief information and innovation officer.

However, although more than 13,000 public housing residents will benefit from having access to free Wi-Fi, the city said nothing about providing access devices, such as PCs, tablets or smartphones, to those residents.

The city of New York has featured a number free public Wi-Fi service rollouts. In late September, Bloomberg's office announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi service in five boroughs. A year earlier, the city began turning its unused payphones into free, public Wi-Fi hotspots. In 2011, the city worked with AT&T (NYSE:T) to offer free Wi-Fi service in 26 parks across the city.

Also, in January 2013, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) rolled out free public Wi-Fi service in Manhattan's southwest Chelsea neighborhood where Google's second-largest office, sometimes referred to as Googleplex East, is located.

For more:
- see this NYC release
- see this NBC News article
- see this Mashable article

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