As a 14-year-old public school student at the Bronx High School of Science, Ben discovered the Internet and loved it. Ben asked teachers if he could use the Internet on computers after school if he agreed to fix them. Within 2-years, Ben began making $15 an hour in 1996 building websites in what the New York Times profiled as the new after-school job.
As a Council Member Ben Kallos has been fighting to bridge the digital divide by giving everyone free or low-cost Internet. Working with then-Public Advocate, now-Attorney General Tish James, Ben Kallos won $14.99 a month Internet for low-income families whose children were eligible for free or reduced school lunch.
Recent, Ben joined Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in authoring a new white paper titled “Bridging the Digital Divide for Every New Yorker with a Universal Internet Guarantee.” The report notes how a reliable high-speed Internet connection has become a basic need for every New Yorker for remote learning, working from home, virtual socializing, and more. This need has become especially acute amid a deadly pandemic that has placed severe limitations on people’s ability to safely gather in-person.
To deliver truly Universal Broadband, we need several fixes at once. We could start with rezoning to require affordable through Internet Mandatory Inclusionary Internet, just like we required affordable housing with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. We could offer incentives for 5G providers to offer affordable access. We can require cable providers to expand affordable Internet offerings we already won to every single low-income New Yorker. And if the providers won't do it, we can take over their networks and do it ourselves by establishing a Municipal Broadband network. We can upgrade existing infrastructure by speeding along the conversion of old payphones into free Internet kiosks and add WiFi to bus stops. We can even open up the city government’s wireless network to the public.
The pandemic has shown us the importance of giving every public school student who needs one a laptop with affordable broadband in the home to eliminate the homework gap and give a whole new generation a real chance at equity. Where all else fails, for those we still haven’t reached in low-income communities of color, we must invest the millions promised by the Mayor in businesses owned and operated by women and people of color to spur innovation and connect every last New Yorker.
As Borough President, Ben will use legislative, franchising, and land use powers to provide a Universal Internet Guarantee.