“We immediately realized that we needed to get Wi-Fi in our buildings,” said Scott Auwarter, Bronxworks’ assistant executive director.
Bronxworks contacted a cable company but determined it would take too long and charge too much. So Bronxworks had its security-camera contractor piggyback Wi-Fi for residents onto the existing network. By mid-May, the vendor had installed one hallway hot spot for every three apartments. It cost about $300, plus about $2 per month for service, per apartment.
“Our approach was more of the Starbucks coffee approach,” Mr. Auwarter said: “It’s just cheaper, easier, faster, nobody can tamper with it, and it’s been maintenance-free.”
The city’s effort, meanwhile, was floundering. It switched more than a thousand students from T-Mobile to Verizon, but many still had problems. The school year ended with many homeless students having missed most or all of the final three months.
Over the summer, another shelter provider, HELP USA, which houses over 600 families in seven shelters in the city, raced to get its buildings wired. “We had one site that took like two months to install — there was a lot of conduit that had to be laid and holes drilled in walls,” said Stephen Mott, HELP USA’s chief of staff.
Still, he said, the project was completed in August, for about $400 per apartment, plus about $3 per month for service. Ms. Trapani of Homeless Services United said she knew of two other operators who wired their buildings.
In October, after the Legal Aid Society threatened a class-action suit on behalf of Aaron Morris and others, accusing the city of denying homeless students their right to basic education, Mr. de Blasio said the city would install Wi-Fi in every shelter.