NYC Wi-Fi payphone project: conflicts of interest?

A few days ago, New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) announced the winning bidder of the NYC Wi-Fi payphone tender (to turn payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots): the CityBridge Consortium.

Many questions are being raised about the selection of CityBridge.

One of the members of the CityBridge consortium is a company called Control Group. One of the former employees of Control Group, a person named Robert Richardson, worked for DoITT in 2011, then he worked for Control Group in 2012, then he went to work for the New York Technology Development Corporation (NY TDC). The New York TDC is described as a “not-for-profit consulting firm that serves one client — New York.”

See the pictures below for a clearer depiction of the connection between Control Group/CityBridge with the DoITT via Robert Richardson and the NYC TDC.

robertrichardson1 robertrichardson2 robertrichardson3 NYTDC DoITT

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Abusing the people’s trust

Aren’t people shocked and disgusted by the way certain persons move in and out of the private and public sectors, thereby compromising the integrity of our government?

Look at Tom Wheeler, the FCC Chairman who used to be a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries! Talk about having a fox guard the chicken coop. Shame on President Obama for appointing that guy.

Now what happened to ex-FCC Chairman, Michael Powell? As of this writing, he is the president of the lobbyist trade group, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. In fact, Michael Powell’s Wikipedia entry says “Michael Powell (lobbyist)” worn as a badge of pride I’m sure by the former FCC chairman, to distinguish himself from Michael Powell, the renowned English director whose name comes up first when you search on Wikipedia.

Now wonder the citizens of America are angry. It looks bad. It SMELLS bad. It is SHAMEFUL.

Now we have a public tender in New York, offering up the use of PUBLIC PROPERTY, the property and rights of way of the people of New York City, and we get this glaring conflict of interest that taints the entire RFP process. Even if the NYC DoITT selected CityBridge based solely on the merits of CityBridge’s response to the RFP, the involvement of Robert Richardson is very troublesome. Didn’t someone in the city’s DoITT see this? Are they so blind?


  1. How is this happening and the public doesn’t know much about it? First we find out that the wi-fi speeds will be faster in certain areas on NYC and now we find out that the winning company had an employee leave to go work for the city recently to help his former company win the bid!! What kind of scheme is this??

  2. John,

    I am surprised that the local newspapers, notably the New York Times, did not write about this. It seems to me that the NY Times should be all over this story. I wrote about it because I run a website about large scale city Wi-Fi projects, but don’t live in New York!

  3. Great reporting. Embarrassing, and likely corrupt, government. This whole RFP stinks.

    Curious why the RFP panelists are a secret. I can’t find them listed anywhere. They are approving a public land-use contract, right? Most of the members are probably on the government payroll, right? Why doesn’t the public get to know who they are?

    NY’s DoITT should be ashamed. Horrible breach of public trust.

  4. Ewald van Geffen says

    Do you have any relationship to this ordeal at all? Just wondering.

  5. I have no relationship to any of the companies that bid on the NYC Wi-Fi payphone project. MuniWireless is my website and I write whatever I want. Nobody tells me what to write.

  6. Still can’t find anything on the panelists. How is that possible? This is a potential billion dollar contract.
    Can you ask NYC for this? Is it really secret?

  7. If “NYC DoITT selected CityBridge based solely on the merits of CityBridge’s response to the RFP” (which they did, by the way), then what’s so troublesome, exactly? To claim that the “winning company had an employee leave to go work for the city recently to help his former company win the bid” is kind of ridiculous, especially when you probably have very little to NO information to base this off- aside from an article written by someone who isn’t even NY based OR part of this project. Also, ControlGroup is not the “winning company”. The “winning company” is the entire team or consortium, CityBridge, which is made up of Titan (managing member), Control Group, Qualcomm, and Comark.

    Comptroller Scott Stringer may have previously disagreed with Mayor de Blasio on the prospect of “closing the digital divide”, suggesting it may actually perpetuate it. However, a statement made in a December 10th press release retracts that claim. In that release, Mr. Stringer says, “LinkNYC’s proposal to put high speed Wi-Fi kiosks throughout the City will not by itself eliminate the digital divide, but marks an important step toward bridging that gap.”

    Yes, most of the new kiosks with the highest speeds will be concentrated in Manhattan…because that’s where we see the highest number of people throughout the City, thus Wi-Fi use will be highest in that area. Makes sense. The Bronx and Staten Island, as well as all other boroughs, will be home to slower kiosks, but these kiosks- called Links- are still blazingly fast by current standards of available Wi-Fi. That is a huge improvement over what we have now, correct?

    Basically, until you find enough (correct) information to dispute or criticize this remarkable deployment of technology, no one should continue complaining about an amazingly innovative and helpful development that the City of New York is welcoming, especially when it has not yet been installed and you haven’t had a chance to experience all that LinkNYC has to offer.

    And get your facts straight. This is why online comments are such bull.

  8. Dear “Ruby” of CityBridge:

    You contradict yourself. If the kiosks have not yet been installed, as you point out, how can you conclude that this is an amazing and innovative project?

    What stinks here is the monopolistic grab over New York City’s payphones by a consortium that won the bid under a cloud of favoritism and unfairness.

    The fact remains that Robert Richardson’s involvement raises questions — one day he’s employed at the DoITT, next day he’s at Control Group, then he’s back advising the DoITT, then suddenly, the consortium of which Control Group is a member, wins!

    Then, there Titan’s own letter to the DoITT telling the city NOT to give the franchise to one party (on grounds that it violates federal law). Please see my later post in which I display the letter in all its hideous glory. Pathetic. Finally, Titan’s sad history with the MTA (it failed to live up to a contract and was kicked out because it could not make the payments! I’d be scared of entering into another contract with them) . . .

    By the way one of the other respondents to the RFP told the city that they would deploy 10,000 kiosks not the 7500 of CityBridge. The only commenter who thinks this is OK and wonderful, is “Ruby”, a person affiliated with CityBridge who does not even want to reveal his or her real name.