New York Makes Internet Affordable for Low-Income Families

New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill requiring Internet service providers to offer broadband to low-income families for $15 per month, noting that it is “an essential service.” At the signing, Cuomo was accompanied by former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, who chairs a state commission on technology. The new mandate was passed by the New York State Legislature. Cuomo also revealed that Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation will provide free Internet to 50,000 students in the 2021-2022 school year.

Deadline reports Cuomo commented that although the move may “limit the profit of some of these big corporations … trust me they are not going to starve.”

The low-cost Internet program is part of the state budget’s Education, Labor and Family Assistance program and “will impact seven million New Yorkers and 2.7 million households who qualify as low income.” ISPs must “report to the Public Service Commission annually on their offers and uptake.”

The Verge reports New York Assembly member Amy Paulin said that, “the average price of broadband in New York is currently $50.” For low-income residents, regular broadband will be capped at $15 per month and high-speed broadband at $20.

For the $15 per month price, “ISPs must provide the greater of two speeds: either 25 Mbps down, or the speed of the ISP’s existing low-income broadband service.” It notes that, “the former is the same speed defined as broadband by the FCC [since 2015], and it’s not considered especially speedy.”

Earlier this year, “a bipartisan group of senators called on the FCC to redefine broadband as 100 Mbps down and 100 Mbps up, as that would better reflect how people actually use their Internet.”

Cuomo also unveiled the online Affordable Broadband Portal, “to help people find affordable Internet in their area.” The ConnectED NY fund, a partnership between Ford Foundation and Schmidt Futures to provide free Internet for students is “expected to operate through June 2022.”

For more information on the governor’s announcement, the press release can be found here.