Making the Right Connections

Making the Right Connections

Bringing Broadband to Queensbridge

Internet service is a necessity in today’s digital world to further education, get a job, pay bills, and more. Most Queensbridge Houses residents are happy that they will soon have access to free high-speed Internet service, but none are as excited as Shameya Muniz and April Andrews. They were hired to be part of the team that is helping Queensbridge go digital.

During the summer of 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $10 million investment to bring free, high-speed broadband service to more than 16,000 New Yorkers living in NYCHA developments, beginning with Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in North America. SpotOn Networks, a leading provider of managed wireless solutions, was chosen as the wireless broadband service provider for Queensbridge.

Installing broadband for 7,000 residents in 26 buildings with more than 3,000 apartments takes a lot of work. To gain consent and access to the apartments, SpotOn hired Ms. Muniz, a lifelong Queensbridge resident, as the Supervisor of Customer Relations/Office Manager, and April Andrews, who moved to the development in 2015, as the Assistant Project Manager.

In addition to Ms. Muniz and Ms. Andrews, SpotOn recently hired a Customer Relations Representative and has done hiring events to attract residents to working on the project. The company expects to complete installation by the end of 2017. After Queensbridge, the City is planning a second network at Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn, and a third at Mott Haven Houses in the South Bronx.

The NYCHA Journal spoke with Muniz and Andrews about their work.

What’s it like to work on a project for your neighbors?

Shameya: The people out here are tough cookies. You’re not just going to tell them anything. They have a lot of questions about the project and installation, “What is it? What does it do? Are you going to charge me later? Is this free? Is this for real?”

April: It’s interesting, considering I just moved here last year. I enjoy it because I was able to talk with people that were confused about the project in terminology they can understand. I’m getting to know people in my community; I go to the store and people recognize me.

Why is broadband important, especially for the residents of Queensbridge?

Shameya: One major reason is that rent pay, lease renewals, a lot of these things that NYCHA does annually are going online. You have a lot of elderly people who don’t use computers, but have family members that can come over and help. You go to McDonald’s and can get free Wi-Fi, so why not here? We’re one of the largest developments and there are a lot of college students, a lot of talented people who can’t work or practice at home, they have to go do the things they love outside of their home. Parents don’t have to go through the hardship of figuring out how to pay for internet for their kids. This will create a lot of growth in the community. It’s awesome!

April: Now students who only have an hour at the library to do homework will have unlimited access at home. So will people who are looking to apply to jobs. People that may consider going back to school will now have the ability to do so from home at their own pace.

How does it feel to be a member of the SpotOn team to bring free broadband to Queensbridge?

Shameya: I’m a tenant and I’m excited about free broadband and that I get to be part of this project. I’m here to see this project the whole way through.

April: As a woman, I’m proud to be able to bring this to my community. I would like to see more women in the IT field. It’s very important for girls to get involved in IT. I always see coding for girls, but there are so many areas of IT that are untouched. Bringing something that is a passion of mine to my community—I can’t even describe the feeling that I get to be part of that movement.

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