NYC tech agency failed to oversee wireless network: report

by Editorial Team

New York City’s problem-plagued internal wireless network crashed in April in part because its telecommunications agency failed to oversee the global defense contractor hired to run the system, a report released Friday says.

The 33-page assessment report, prepared by Gartner Consulting at the request of Mayor Bill de Blasio, cost taxpayers a whopping $300,000 but is quite vague – especially a heavily redacted version distributed to the media.

It was filled with more than 30 deletions and never mentions Samir Saini, the city’s embattled former tech czar who resigned under fire a week ago, or other key personnel.

However, it does point blame at both Northrop Grumman and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications for failure to communicate over the cyber-screw-up that shut down the New York City Wireless Network – also known as NYCWiN – from April 6-17.

The crash to the cellular-antenna infrastructure, which was created to help agencies control traffic lights and other key functions, could’ve easily be avoided if the system was updated.

In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that GPS-enabled devices like NYCWiN could go dark because of a time counter “roller event” similar to the Y2K bug. However, the report notes DoITT was unaware its system was even in danger of crashing — until was too late.

“Despite the availability of information about the [rollover] event, steps were not taken to prevent NYCWiN from being affected …,” the report said.

“It is assumed as part of its normal business activities [Northrop Grumman] regularly reviewed and updated its preparedness practices and capabilities, including ones that would be relevant to broadband wireless infrastructure systems such as NYCWiN,” the document says. “This critical level of interaction did not seem to occur.

“Similarly no key city agency — [including DoITT] — appeared to regularly engage [Northrop Grumman] and its subcontractor … in a specific and structured way regarding NYCWiN preparedness.”

The report includes a series of recommendations that the city plans to implement, including conducting a “detailed business impact analysis” of its technology infrastructure to understand the consequences of shutdowns.

The Mayor’s Office could not immediately provide an estimate of how much such an analysis would cost, but NYCWIN has long been a major money pit for taxpayers.

Northrop Grumman has run NYCWiN since 2009 through a five-year deal and two renewals that has netted the company nearly $900 million. As The Post previously reported, this includes at least $55 million in unanticipated cost overruns related to construction work and services not included in the original agreement.

The city is extending the deal another year at an anticipated cost of another $40 million, but de Blasio has promised to replace Northrop Grumman after the extension ends with Verizon or another commercial carrier who can provide the same services at lower costs.

“While there were no interruptions to city services during the NYCWiN outage, it is critical we learn from this event,” said Laura Anglin, the city’s deputy mayor of operations.

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