The Y-Zone: a digital opportunity zone offering free internet access
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Located along the Hudson River, Yonkers is the gateway between New York City and the Hudson Valley. Through Project OVERCOME, leaders in the digital opportunity area known as Yonkers Zone, or Y-Zone, will provide free Internet access to approximately 250 to 350 homes in downtown Yonkers using the spectrum of the Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) frequency band. The team is made up of leaders of the Westchester County Association, City of Yonkers, STIM Alliance, Yonkers Partnership in Education (YPIE), Fordham University and Westhab.
Three fundamental principles guide the Yonkers team:
- Establish a digital equity ecosystem led by a coalition of engaged local actors that includes residents and youth;
- Achieve widespread adoption through community engagement;
- Advancing digital fluidity by providing device ownership and technology education with connectivity.
The Y-Zone identifies and removes barriers to digital adoption, including cost of service, device ownership, lack of technical training, and lack of necessary technical support. Using Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shared spectrum in the 3.5 GHz CBRS band, Yonkers deploys extended private long-life (LTE) wireless networks, facilitating community-based private network services.
The Y-Zone initiative combines technology and “grassroots” implementation with the goal of achieving broad benefits for the community. Collaborate with community partners such as the YMCA, Neighbor links, Yonkers partner in education (YPIE), Westhab, and local schools, the team can provide training and distribute devices to the community. Additionally, Y-Zone’s relationships with municipal, business and non-profit leaders help drive community engagement and participation to ensure the sustainability of the Digital Opportunity Zone.
The team deploys the Model Y-PAR (participatory action research with young people) to assess the impact of connecting the non-connected through the OVERCOME project.
The partners in this Yonkers-based project hope to replicate and extend the Y-Zone model to other parts of Westchester County, and the team has already formed a large group of stakeholders to work on sustainability and efforts. expansion of the project.
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The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that everyone in the United States has access to competitive, high-performance broadband, regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe that communication policy – rooted in the values of access, equity and diversity – has the power to offer new opportunities and strengthen communities.
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