As Australia continues to debate the merits of the national broadband network, New York City is offering small and medium enterprises free fibre cable.
In a bid to ensure the city remains a leader in the global technology industry, its local government has launched ConnectNYC, a competition for businesses to bid for bring underwired buildings and neighbourhoods up to 21st-century speed.
''In today's world, broadband is a vital piece of infrastructure and we need to make sure New York City's wiring is competitive with other cities,'' mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
"Expanding broadband across the city is part of our strategy to make New York City a great place to do business and create jobs."
The initiative will immediately provide up to $US7 million ($A6.8 million) for IT infrastructure upgrades. It will focus on areas of the city that were previously used for other industry but are now being repurposed for the growing technology sector.
City officials say broadband infrastructure is critical to the future success of business. ConnectNYC is available to businesses with fewer than 100 employees in all industries.
"Getting more New York City businesses access to high-speed broadband will have a major impact on their ability to be competitive and ultimately succeed in today's marketplace," said Christine Quinn, City Council Speaker and a front-runner to succeed Bloomberg as New York City mayor in 2013. "Every business deserves a level playing field."
The initiative reflects the transformation some of New York City's industrial areas are experiencing.
In 2005, the city created the broadband advisory committee charged with identifying current and future needs of the public, enterprise, and non-profit sectors.
The committee, which included senior commercial infrastructure executives, public housing officials, researchers, and an editor from Wired magazine, was charged with confronting issues on universal access to broadband and fixing problems. ''We learned that fast, free and low-cost fibre does not exist in many of the commercial and manufacturing areas,'' said councillor Gale Brewer.
ConnectNYC is a partnership between ChallengePost, itself a start-up that crowd-sources solutions for governments and software companies.
A kind of eBay for tech problems, ChallengePost clients have included the World Bank, First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy eating program, and the US Federal Government.
The mayor's office has identified three areas of concern: ''The last mile'', where broadband exists in a neighbourhood but is not connected to enterprise-friendly buildings; ''digital deserts'', where areas are underserved by broadband; and the ''digital divide'', where low-income communities have low adoption rates for broadband connectivity.
The fibre rollout is estimated at $7 million in value, part of a $12 million investment pay TV providers Time Warner Cable and Cablevision are investing to upgrade infrastructure intended to benefit 240 businesses.
"We agree that building out the city's fibre infrastructure is vital to attracting new jobs and businesses," said Ken Fitzpatrick, a Time Warner Cable executive.