May 18, 2021

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NY law provides $15/month internet access for low-income households

A new law requires internet service providers in New York state to provide high-speed internet plans to low-income households for $15 per month.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed the legislation mandating the affordable broadband packages be made available statewide. The Legislature approved it as part of the state budget last week.

New Yorkers qualifying for the internet access program include households who are currently eligible or receiving free or reduced-price lunch, supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits, Medicaid, the senior citizen or disability rent increase exemptions, or an affordability benefit from a utility.

“For America, broadband holds great power. It will be either the greater equalizer for society, or it will be the great divider,” Cuomo said during a press briefing in Buffalo.

New York’s law is the first of its kind in the nation to provide access to affordable high-speed internet, Cuomo added, noting the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to work and learn from home, which increased the need to ensure everyone has reliable internet connections to curb racial and economic inequality.

Shaun Prentice, owner of St. Lawrence Recreation near Massena, New York, talks about the challenges of using a credit card reader without high-speed broadband internet access at his business.

Further, a state-established fund will support up to 50,000 students whose families can’t afford the $15 monthly fee through June 2022. The fund is provided in partnership with Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation, Cuomo said.

A basic high-speed internet plan, on average, costs more than $50 per month, according to statistics released by the governor’s office.

Nationwide, 43% of those earning less than $30,000 are not connected to internet at home, and 26% of those making $30,000 to $50,000 remain unconnected at home, the numbers showed. The rate declines to 8% unconnected for those making $75,000 or more.