The past year was difficult for everyone involved. With the pandemic raging, schools and businesses alike were forced to shut down and suddenly it became clear just how much we all rely on the internet in our day-to-day lives.
This realization was a harsh and brutal one for many of the millions of people living in New York, who were used to commuting through the subway and not through a Zoom meeting. Students across the country were suddenly expected to attend schooling online, and for many of them that just simply wasn’t an option. Well, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come up with a solution that seeks to rectify that particular issue.
Cuomo Signed Internet Bill Starts Saving Low Income Residents Immediately
In June 2020, a few months from now, New Yorkers who are already classified as ‘low-income will have a new service available to them thanks in large part to the Affordable Broadband Bill that Cuomo signed into law at the Northland Workforce Training Center on Friday, April 16th. This means that anyone who already qualifies for the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, the Disability Rent Increase Exemption, or a recipient of any other affordability benefit on utilities will now have access to quality internet for 15$ a month.
Which Providers Will Offer Low Income Internet Service
Not all internet providers are required to offer the plans, however. As per the wording in the legislation, only the companies that serve more than 20,000 households, such as Spectrum, Xfinity, and Verizon Fios, will be required to offer 15$/month plans to these citizens. The plans must include download speeds of at least 25Mbps, which is about what most rural households get with satellite internet. It’s just enough to surf the web or stream television. The law also requires the ISPs to offer plans at 20$/month that have download speeds of 200Mbps, which would rival the upcoming satellite options from Starlink.
Bill Ferris, AARP New York legislative director explained that easier access to fast internet will benefit older New Yorkers by helping them connecting with loved ones and their doctors virtually, which is great in so many ways. Many older New Yorkers have been having difficulties being able to leave the house during the pandemic, which means they’ve potentially missed important appointments. Not to mention that being secluded alone or in a care facility without contact from your loved ones can be especially difficult during these trying times. Marina Marcou-O’Malley, AQE Policy, and Operations Director pointed out that remote learning isn’t likely to go away any time soon, for both younger students and college courses.
Internet Bill Carrying Over To Help Low-Income Students
New York is also partnering with certain philanthropic organizations to help provide free high-speed internet access to 50,000 students in low-income school districts this upcoming school year. The students will be chosen based on where they live, but other than that there are no other requirements known at this time.
We are living in a time where the internet should no longer be considered a luxury, but an essential part of living like electricity and running water. So much of our lives depend on having reliable, decent internet. New York is taking the first step in improving its citizens day to day lives. Only time will tell if other states step up to the plate and offer something similar.