Cuomo proposes affordable internet plan for all lower-income families

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 January 2021 at 8:45 pm

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivers day two of his 2021 State of the State Address in the War Room at the State Capitol today. Photo by Darren McGee of the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the need for more affordable high-speed internet.

Families throughout the state were pushed to online learning in mid-March 2020, but students often didn’t have internet access at home for remote learning on computers. In many cases the cost of the service is too much money, Cuomo said today during day two of his State of the State.

The governor said universal broadband is “a prerequisite for success in a remote world.” The service right now is too costly for many families. A basic high-speed internet plan costs, on average, more than $50 a month, the governor said. That isn’t affordable for 1 in 5 families nationwide, he said.

“Without affordable broadband, families are left behind,” Cuomo said. “Social injustice is increased.”

Cuomo is proposing a first-in-the-nation legislation that will require internet service providers to offer an affordable $15 per month high-speed internet plan to all low-income households.

Providers will be required to advertise this plan to reach underserved populations across the state. Cuomo said the state also will partner with Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation to create a new hardship fund to pay for internet subscriptions students and families who cannot afford $15 per month during this crisis.

The state is partnering with Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and chair of the Reimagine NY commission, and commission member Darren Walker, President of the Ford foundation. Richard Parsons, chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, also is part of the group.

“Without affordable broadband, people are not only disconnected, they are disenfranchised,” Cuomo said.

High-speed internet also is critical to apply for many jobs and to have access to telemedicine, the governor said.

“Without broadband, the public education system that was supposed to be the great equalizer becomes the great divider,” the governor said. “In this new world, remote learning doesn’t exist if the child doesn’t have access. And too often the child left behind in remote learning is poor, Black or Latino.”

The School Administrators Association of New York State praised Cuomo for the proposal. Kevin Casey, director of SAANYS, issued this statement:

“The governor’s Internet access proposal is laudable and needed. We have heard too many stories of students having to travel to parking lots and commercial properties just to be able to attend school that day. The plan to make high-speed service affordable for low-income households will benefit students today and into the future, as virtual learning increasingly becomes part of the educational paradigm.

“SAANYS does caution that although efforts have been made to address infrastructure for Internet access, gaps remain in some areas, affecting thousands of school children. Continued work with providers is needed to ensure that standards and quality are consistent across the state.”