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Mount Vernon's Lawrence Focuses On Importance Of Free Wi-Fi

Derickson Lawrence.
Derickson Lawrence. Photo Credit: Contributed

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. -- Derickson Lawrence, chairman of the Westchester County Homeowners' Coalition and the County Crimestoppers, former chairman of the Mount Vernon Housing Authority and Daily Voice community advisor, shares his opinion on the use of free Wi-Fi and its potential impact on the community.

The reality of regional Wi-Fi and its irrevocable and profound impact on K-12 digital learning is within our grasp. President Obama announced on Wednesday, Jan. 14 the need for new regulation via the Federal Communications Commission that would force states that block competition at the municipal level to open the process.

By the president tipping the scale, he officially kicked off the race to broadband and faster wireless speeds. What was in neither the president’s message nor Gov. Cuomo’s recent State of the State address regarding broadband is it will take bold innovative steps, strong local leadership and public-private partnerships to forge and change the existing paradigm. It could start in any city or municipality; maybe, even in Mount Vernon.

Today, the largest growth segment of consumers of digital data is children between the ages of 10 to 17; and they are found in the classroom. As more innovative educational “apps” are introduced in schools, expect demand for access to those “apps” to increase outside of schools --distance learning.

Hence, the greater need for free, ubiquitous, Wi-Fi "hot spots," as opposed to the cellular wireless “data plans,” especially in rural and poor urban school districts.

On Thursday, Feb. 26, after a decade of discourse, the FCC is set to rule in support of “Net Neutrality” a decision that will further support a level playing field for all consumers (municipalities and school districts) to access the Internet.

Benefits go beyond accommodating education’s shift toward digital learning. Like electricity a century ago, free Wi-Fi and broadband have the propensity to drive economic growth, create jobs and engender a buzzing ecosystem of commerce.

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, the president again underscored the importance of broadband.

"I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world," he said.

The leadership of the City of Mount Vernon deserves kudos for warming to the idea. A cursory look at charters of southern Westchester cities (White Plains, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and Yonkers —a multi-region block and a microcosm of the state) shows the issuance of non-exclusive, revocable licenses to incumbent franchisees. That’s good news. But they will all require charter updates to establish standards and address this rapidly changing environment of broadband and the opportunity for free regional WIFI. A bottoms-up approach is the way forward.

And, I am rooting for the home team to lead the charge- the City of Mount Vernon.

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