NYC’s “LEED for broadband” will help companies pick tech-friendly office locations


New York City is already home to tech companies like Spotify, Tumblr and Birchbox, and under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city has made a major push to attract more startups as well as large companies, like Yahoo (s YHOO) and Facebook (s FB), that are headquartered on the West Coast.

On Monday, NYC announced two more initiatives to further that goal. It’s officially launching a certification program called “WiredNYC,” first announced in 2012, that aims to be a “LEED for broadband” by making information about broadband infrastructure available to landlords and businesses. The aim is to help businesses gauge connectivity when deciding where they should lease or buy office space. And it’s making free public Wi-Fi available in ten new areas, including poor neighborhoods far from “Silicon Alley,” the tech hub in Manhattan’s Flatiron district.

“We’re…measuring how connected our city’s buildings are and sharing that information,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement, “so that entrepreneurs are empowered to make the best decisions about where to open a business.”

Jared Kushner, the 32-year-old CEO of real estate developer Kushner Companies and owner of the New York Observer, will run WiredNYC for the city. Ten of the city’s largest real estate companies, including Rudin Management and Vornado, are participating, “with over 150 buildings currently signed up for the program representing approximately 100 million square feet of office space.” The program assigns office buildings grades of Platinum, Gold, Silver and Connected based on their internet capabilities; you can look up addresses here. The goal is to roll the technology to other cities by the end of next year.

This program, if rolled out nationwide, could be a huge help for businesses and could also do what the federal government never could manage with its broadband mapping efforts — create an address-level assessment of the quality of broadband available. While many may take it for granted that office buildings have great broadband, that’s not always the case. Some offices are located too far from the central offices of telecommunications companies, and so have the slowest available DSL speeds, and cable providers might not have laid fiber or coax to those areas. Thus, a tenant might inexplicably find themselves stuck on a 3Mbps connection while a person half a block away gets a reasonable speed.

In addition, ten areas throughout New York City will get access to free public Wi-Fi starting in December: Brooklyn’s Fulton Street corridor, BAM Cultural District, Downtown Brooklyn and Brownsville; Manhattan’s Flatiron District, Water Street Corridor, East River waterfront, 125th Street in Harlem and Roosevelt Island; Queens’ Long Island City; Staten Island’s St. George commercial district and the Bronx’s Fordham Road.

The city of NYC had previously rolled out free Wi-Fi in a number of parks and public spaces, and Google (s GOOG) offers free public Wi-Fi in southwest Chelsea, the area where its New York headquarters are located. But New York still falls far behind San Francisco when it comes to free Wi-Fi access. The launch of the new public Wi-Fi areas could help change that, and it’s noteworthy that it’s not just the rich who are getting access: Covered areas will include areas around public housing projects in Downtown Brooklyn and Brownsville, one of NYC’s poorest neighborhoods.

Stacey Higginbotham contributed to this report.

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