In a bid to bring cutting-edge technology and advanced business opportunities to the region, The Westchester County Association [WCA] announced today during a standing-room-only press conference at 1133 Westchester Avenue in White Plains that it will be launching a public-private partnership to spearhead super-speed Internet throughout four major cities. New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, Yonkers, and White Plains have all signed on to the WCA’s Smart Growth initiatives, which, among other objectives, seek to make them the first communities in New York State to deliver one gigabit per-second broadband service to every one of their residents, businesses, and institutions. (This comes days after U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York led the charge for greater broadband access in rural regions.)
With speeds approximately 200 times that of typical broadband throughout the country, gigabit capability will impact health providers, businesses, education, and even public safety. “We need the right digital infrastructure with the capacity and speed to make us competitive in the new economy,” said William M. Mooney Jr., President and CEO of the WCA, while addressing those gathered. “This is nothing short of revolutionary. By joining together with the WCA in this monumental community effort, Westchester cities are taking a critical step in modernizing their digital infrastructure.”
He added that the initiative will be aimed at “closing the digital divide, making our county competitive again, creating jobs, and realizing municipal efficiencies.” His enthusiasm was seconded by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, who, speaking of all four cities, remarked, “We are leading by example and are becoming innovators.”
With a price tag of approximately $750 million and a timeframe of between three and five years, this will undoubtedly be a major effort, but White Plains Mayor Tom Roach feels the hard work will be worth it, telling Westchester that, as one example, “Having this available to a corporation looking to relocate or a hospital that is expanding will be extremely worthwhile. The medical opportunities are huge because of the bandwidth they need. If demand exceeds supply in terms of bandwidth, you have real problems, so for that reason, I think it is good to get ahead of it. There is strength in numbers, and if we band together we can hopefully get a better deal for the community.”
Samant Virk, MD, co-founder and CEO of telehealth company MediSprout, agrees that health providers in particular will benefit from the partnership. “[Telehealth] is so data intensive that the technology doesn’t work consistently with the infrastructure we have now but, with this, it would be flawless,” he says. “I think it will go a long way in improving the care people get and in improving emergency services, where there is no room for failure.”
The benefits are also expected to trickle down to underserved resident populations, whether disadvantaged adults or youth in need of greater resources. Essentially, it might help level the playing field for thousands of Westchesterites. “This creates the access that we need not just for technology, but for education,” says Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas. “It not only gives me hope, but it gives me more tools to service families.” Mooney concurs, noting that schools throughout these four cities will now be united with improved access to vital Internet capabilities. “This will achieve something that we have been trying to do for 50 years,” he exclaims.
Though his and others’ sentiments are perhaps best summed up by Christopher B. Fisher, partner at White Plains-based law firm Cuddy & Feder LLP, who sees the entire program—and the cooperation behind it—as a true game-changer. “You have to be a leader,” he states. “And the leadership by the four mayors, Bill Mooney, and the Westchester County Association is truly unique when you look at what’s happening in our country in terms of broadband. You are combining the public and the private sector to achieve all these results that we have laid out. If you don’t actually take those steps, in my opinion, you will be a laggard.”