Economic Development

Where the Broadband Isn’t: Looking at Connectivity in NYC

Broadband penetration in the Bronx, with purple areas highlighting areas with a higher concentration of broadband. American University/City Limits

This piece originally appeared in City Limits.

Three of New York City’s five boroughs are among the eight least broadband-connected counties in New York State, according to data published Friday.

On the federal government’s five-point scale of broadband penetration, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens—along with Montgomery, Cattaraugus, Greene, Schoharie and Cayuga counties—score a 3, meaning 400 to 600 out of every 1,000 households have the ability to upload and download data at broadband speeds.

Manhattan and Staten Island each earn a score of 4 on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) scale, meaning that 600 to 800 homes out of 1,000 are subscribed.

Ten state counties, including the entire downstate area outside of the city (Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess Counties) noted scores of 5, meaning 80 percent to 100 percent of households are linked up.

That broader regional connectivity meant that the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metropolitan area ranked near the top of other metro regions, with an estimated 67 percent of its households hooked into broadband—slightly behind the national leader in Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamford, Conn., at 72 percent, but well ahead of the least connected metro area, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, where just over a third of households are connected.

The estimates come from the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University’s School of Communication, which found that cost is the major obstacle to broadband subscription, contributing to an obvious broadband divide between wealthy and poor areas.

Indeed, among New York State counties, City Limits calculates that differences in broadband uptake track closer to differences in median income than to differences in racial makeup or education levels.

But poverty might be only one factor.

Of the 4,900 Census tracts in New York City, only 20 registered a 1 on the FCC scale, and most of those tracts encompassed institutions, like Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island or Kennedy Airport in Queens.

But 12 tracts in Brooklyn posted a 1 on the FCC scale (meaning fewer than 200 in 1,000 households were subscribed), and these were concentrated around traditional Jewish enclaves in Borough Park and Williamsburg. Some Orthodox Jewish religious leaders strongly discourage use of the Internet because of the easy access it provides to pornography and other controversial content.

Click here for an interactive map of broadband penetration in the country.

Tags: new york, east coast, economy, brooklyn, maps, broadband, queens, fcc, the bronx, rankings