Crawford v. New York City Department of Information, Technology and Telecommunications

About the Case

MFIA represents Professor Susan Crawford in a freedom of information lawsuit against the City of New York seeking maps of the telecommunications conduit infrastructure beneath the streets of the city.  Such information is necessary in order to enable competition in the market for internet access, and to address the problems of lack of internet access for underserved populations.

In 2012, Professor Crawford submitted a New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT), requesting a map of the City’s broadband infrastructure, including information about conduit use and maintenance. (Conduits are the tubes through which Internet cables run.)  The City rejected the FOIL request, claiming that the map could reveal potential targets for terrorist attacks. MFIA first filed suit in November 2012, challenging the City’s refusal to disclose the requested information, but the court agreed with the City.

In 2014, Professor Crawford made another FOIL request to DoITT seeking different documents relating to the use and maintenance of the City’s Internet conduits. DoITT partially denied this request and MFIA filed an Article 78 petition in New York trial court challenging DoITT’s redactions. Since filing the petition, several entities have intervened to attempt to block Professor Crawford from obtaining DoITT’s information. This includes Empire City Subway (“ECS”), which has a monopoly on all Internet conduits in Manhattan and the Bronx, and several cable companies that lease conduit space from ECS: AT&T, Time-Warner Cable, and RCN Telecom Services. DoITT, joined by the above-mentioned companies, has moved to dismiss Professor Crawford’s petition, claiming incorrectly that the case has already been decided. Oral arguments on this motion occurred in March. We are currently waiting on the court’s decision.