ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Gov. Cuomo announced his proposal to enact a first-in-the-nation requirement for affordable internet for all low-income families as part of the 2021 State of the State agenda. Under the Governor’s proposal, all internet providers would be required to offer affordable service at a flat rate to low-income households.

The affordability requirements are part of the Governor’s 2021 connectivity agenda, which also includes a series of actions to protect consumers through better disclosures , promote broadband build-out and market competition, and undertake new digital inclusion efforts. 

“Now more than ever, high-speed internet has become essential in every household. You can’t go to school, work from home, or visit your doctor by telehealth without it,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York has led the way in building out broadband infrastructure, and now we must ensure that internet service is affordable to give every family and community the connectivity tools they need to succeed.”

The Reimagine New York Commission reported to the Governor that equal access to high-quality, affordable internet connectivity is a prerequisite to building back a better and more equitable New York. Informed by their recommendations, Governor Cuomo will take the following actions: 
Establish guarantee of affordable internet mandate

Governor Cuomo will propose first-in-the-nation legislation requiring internet service providers to offer a $15 per month high speed internet plan to low-income households. Currently, a basic high-speed internet plan costs, on average, over $50 a month. The State will also require providers to advertise this option to ensure programs reach underserved populations across the State.

Close the “Homework Gap” by establishing a hardship fund

To bridge the gap during the COVID-19 emergency and help in need children across New York State, the Reimagine New York Commission, Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation will launch a new hardship fund to pay for internet subscriptions for students who cannot afford $15 a month during the COVID-19 crisis. To ensure students also get the laptops and hot spots they need, the State will expedite the Smart Schools Bond Act funding to school districts to meet outstanding device needs.

Consumer protections for broadband customers and other critical reforms

To combat practices that limit consumer choice and increase the cost of internet services, the Public Service Commission will require adherence to a universal “broadband disclosure” that explains all charges, such as device, termination, activation, and equipment fees in plain and easy to understand language so consumers will no longer get hit with unexpected charges. 

In addition, the State will undertake other actions to spur further investment in access including promoting a “dig once” policy to facilitate the buildout of fiber across the state, launching a website to help New Yorkers find the affordable plan in their area and report on coverage gaps and consumer experiences, as well as other efforts to close the literacy and digital skills gap that persists in underserved communities.