Bringing Broadband to the Urban Poor
To make good on a pledge to prioritize high-speed Internet access, President-elect Obama must address inner cities, where many go without a connection
Anthony Celestine was a latecomer to the Internet Age. The 40-year-old Harlem resident has owned a small Jani-King commercial cleaning franchise since 2004, but until recently, the New Yorker hadn't owned a computer or even surfed the Web or had an e-mail address. "I didn't know what none of that stuff was," he says.
Now he uses the Internet all the time to scout out new customers, communicate with Jani-King headquarters in Dallas, and trade e-mails with fellow franchisees on how to do certain kinds of jobs better. "I talk to my franchise brothers about what works and what doesn't," says Celestine, "I'm learning about new procedures faster than before. It's like riding a bike and then switching to a car. It's just a whole better world with the PC."
Celestine entered that world earlier this year when he moved from Brooklyn to an apartment in Harlem and got a PC and a high-speed Web hookup as part of his rental agreement. Celestine's apartment is owned by Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI), a 22-year-old, $240 million nonprofit community development organization based in Harlem's Bradhurst neighborhood. HCCI was able to provide the computer and Internet connection thanks to the efforts of other nonprofit groups and an organization that funds affordable housing projects