Spectrum maintenance trucks at an apartment building in Queens. A federal pandemic-era subsidy for lower-income...

Spectrum maintenance trucks at an apartment building in Queens. A federal pandemic-era subsidy for lower-income households for broadband internet access is ending. Credit: UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images/Lindsey Nicholson

More than 75,000 lower-income households in Nassau and Suffolk counties this week are losing a monthly federal subsidy for broadband internet access, money that began being paid out in 2022 for pandemic recovery but has since been depleted.

The end of the subsidy, totaling $30 a month per household ($75 for households on qualified Indian tribal land), will affect nearly 10% of all Long Island households with broadband, according to the Manhattan-based Center for an Urban Future, which analyzed who received the funds.

“We live in a society now where reliable, high-speed internet access is the front door to nearly every opportunity that exists on Long Island today — employment, education, access to social services," said Eli Dvorkin, policy director at the center. "All of this is only really possible with reliable internet access, so losing that access, or making home internet more expensive at a time when Long Island is reeling from an affordability crisis, is something that many of the Island’s lower-income households just can’t afford. But they also can’t afford not to have high-speed internet at home."

Nationwide, more than 23 million lower-income households have received free or discounted broadband access since the subsidy, called the Affordable Connectivity Program, began in January 2022 as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. President Joe Biden wants Congress to re-up the program, but its future is uncertain. Biden has likened the Affordable Connectivity Program to the Depression-era Rural Electrification Administration, the New Deal-era program that brought power to much of rural America more than 90 years ago.

“Our goal is to connect everyone in America to affordable, reliable high-speed internet by the year 2030, everyone in America, just like Franklin Roosevelt did a generation ago with electricity,” Biden said earlier this year.

Only 43% of eligible households nationwide had signed up by the time the program had wound down earlier this year. Long Island’s participation rate wasn’t readily available.

On Long Island, the subsidy has gone to 76,130 households — 42,672 in Suffolk and 33,458 in Nassau, Dvorkin said.

Of 511,964 households in Suffolk and 456,149 in Nassau, there are 425,539 homes in Suffolk with broadband internet and 380,357 in Nassau. The balance of households either lack internet entirely or have slower-speed internet service.

Sign-ups ended earlier this year, in anticipation of the program’s sunset. There are several ways a person could have qualified: having participated in a government benefits program such as food stamps, public housing, or Women, Infants and Children; having a student in a household receiving free or reduced school lunch; a household income that, as of earlier this year, is $62,400 for a family of four; or having an active recipient of a federal Pell grant, Dvorkin said.

What will happen to internet service for those households once the subsidy expires in a few days?

“Subscribers can choose to maintain their plans, but they will have to dig deeper into their own pockets to pay for it. Others may elect to downgrade their service speeds, in order to lower their out-of-pocket costs. And some residents will likely decide they just can’t afford home Internet without the subsidy,” Dvorkin wrote in an email.

The number of participating households in New York City is even higher: 1 million, according to the center.

“While both Nassau and Suffolk have significantly higher median incomes than the five counties of New York City,” Dvorkin said, “there are lots of pockets of poverty on Long Island.”

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

Updated now A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

Updated now A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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