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NY law provides low-cost broadband internet for low-income families

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a requirement for

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a measure requiring affordable internet for qualifying low-income families, as proposed in the 2021 State of the State, during a news conference Friday. Credit: NY Governor's Office

ALBANY — High-speed, broadband internet required for most remote schooling and for the increasing use of telemedicine will be available to low-income families for $15 a month under the state’s newest law.

Internet providers operating in New York will be required to offer the service at the reduced cost. The service typically costs about $50 a month.

Families would qualify for the service if they receive free or reduced-price lunches at schools, supplemental nutrition assistance benefits, Medicaid, senior citizen or disability rent increase exemptions, or an affordability benefit from a utility. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure Friday in Buffalo.

"It’s a moral duty," said Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google. He is chairman of the Reimagine New York Commission that Cuomo created to prepare for a post-pandemic New York.

Charles Phillips, a member of the commission, said at the closed event that availability to computers led him to build his first computer in high school, attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and rise to captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, before becoming CEO at Oracle. Phillips said he can’t overstate how important strong computer access is to unleashing the power of education in poor communities.

The Federal Communications Commission is also developing an Emergency Broadband Benefit program that would provide a discount for the service of up to $50 a month for qualified families and up to $75 per month for families on tribal lands, a state spokesman said. The program also offers a one-time discount of $100 toward a computer from participating retailers.

In addition, Schmidt’s company, Schmidt Futures, and the Ford Foundations created ConnectED NY. That’s an emergency fund that pays for internet access for about 50,000 students in low-income neighborhoods through June 2022.

"High-speed internet is essential to our everyday lives," Cuomo said. "As we continue to reopen our state and adjust to new norms that have been shaped by the pandemic, we need to make sure every household has access to affordable internet. … This program — the first of its kind in the nation — will ensure that no New Yorker will have to forgo having reliable home internet service and no child's education will have to suffer due to their economic situation."

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