New NY law to make providers offer low-cost, high-speed internet to lower-income homes |

New NY law to make providers offer low-cost, high-speed internet to lower-income homes

New NY law to make providers offer low-cost, high-speed internet to lower-income homes Photo: News10NBC.

Updated: April 16, 2021 06:20 PM
Created: April 16, 2021 11:00 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WHEC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday announced a new New York State law will require all internet service providers to offer low-cost, high-speed internet to lower-income families and homes.

Cuomo said during a COVID-19 briefing in Buffalo that providers will have to offer the service at a $15 rate.

He added that families and folks who still cannot afford that rate will be offered some financial help by way of an emergency fund set up by Re-Imagine New York Chair and CEO of Google Eric Schmidt. Cuomo said the fund could help up to 50,000 students and families. The governor added the fund will give students free internet access through June 2022 while remote learning lasts.

To qualify for the "low income" category, Cuomo said you must qualify for either:

  • National School Lunch Program
  • SNAP benefits
  • Medicaid
  • Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption
  • Disability Rent Increase Exemption
  • Utility Affordability Programs

It's not clear if that list will be expanded. 

Recently, New York launched a portal that gathers cheap internet options already available to you. In Monroe County: Spectrum and Frontier are your only low-cost options. Spectrum does offer a $15 a month option, but only if a household qualifies for the National School Lunch Program. It's also available for those on social security.

Most current internet options in the Rochester area are around $50 a month, including Greenlight Networks which is known for providing high-speed fiber internet. 

"Our base price is $50 a month,” said Michele Sadwick, vice president of marketing for Greenlight Networks. “We actually believe—and we're seeing from the response that we get and the number of customers that we have—that is fairly affordable for people."

Sadwick told News10NBC that network usage spiked by about 30% when the pandemic hit, and has not dropped since. 

"Our understanding is not only would this be a low-cost but potentially a low-speed option which is a little concerning given the needs of people, especially with the pandemic," Sadwick said. 

Because all students in the Rochester City School District already qualify for the National School Lunch Program (which provides free and reduced-cost lunches to students), 100% of RCSD students will qualify for $15 internet under the new law. However, most RCSD students already have district-issued hotspot devices. 

"Closing that digital divide really means a lot to families," said RCSD’s Chief Technology Officer, Glen VanDerwater. "We have a high percentage of families that are on free or reduced lunch and that qualifies them, even if they're not on free and reduced lunch and don't have reliable internet, they still qualify."

The new law is set to take effect on Tuesday, June 15. Meaning, internet service providers will be required to start offering the $15 option on June 15.

Read the full announcement from the Governor’s office here

As News10NBC has previously reported, New York State reported that roughly 98% of people had a connection, but that number's been disputed by studies, lawmakers, and school leaders.

See his Q&A session with reporters below

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