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NYC to roll out free Wi-Fi in housing projects

New York City housing projects will begin to offer free broadband-speed Internet access starting next year under a pilot program announced Thursday.

The Wi-Fi, funded with a mix of private donations and city taxpayer dollars, is slated to be rolled out at five developments in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and reach about 16,000 people.

Mayor Bill de Blasio cited statistics that 1 in 3 of the city's poorest residents lacks Internet access, and must choose between paying for the technology or necessities.

"That choice has to be made against rent, against food, against medicine. And people have to make those tough choices," de Blasio said.

The service will be 25 megabits per second, de Blasio's counsel, Maya Wiley, said. The first of the five projects to receive the service is expected to be the Queenbridge Houses, North America's largest housing project, which is in the shadow of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

The city will impose no restrictions on what websites users can visit or how much data they can use, though parents will be able to control their children's access, said Wiley, whose portfolio as the mayor's lawyer includes expanding Internet access.

The city's program is part of ConnectHome, an effort by the Obama administration, for 27 cities across the country to extend free access to about 275,000 households. The U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, joined de Blasio at the announcement, made at the Mott Haven Community Center in the Bronx.

Donations by the telecom giant Sprint are to fund much of the program in New York City, with the government picking up the tab for installing infrastructure.

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