Affordable broadband is a right, according to New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Speaking in Buffalo today, Cuomo announced the approval of legislation that will bring affordable broadband services to families from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Under this legislation, WKBW Buffalo reports, internet providers must offer broadband at $15 per month throughout New York State for low-income families.
The initiative is part of Cuomo’s Reimagine New York State Commission, as WHAM reports, which is tasked with stabilizing the state in the wake of the pandemic. Cuomo also shared announcements about additional support programs and a look at New York State’s future research projects. This includes a statewide study of neighborhoods of varying income levels to understand the "availability, reliability, and cost of high-speed broadband services," according to a press release.
The state will also work alongside the Ford Foundation and Schmidt Futures for the ConnectED NY program, which will fund free internet for close to 50,000 students from low-income backgrounds. This student program will run through June 2022.
Here are the requisites for qualification — The New York State broadband program comes with eligibility criteria, of course. Residents will need to prove that they are eligible for or are already receiving Medicaid benefits, cost-free or cost-reduced lunch assistance, or supplemental help for nutrition assistance programs. Senior citizens, people who are receiving exemptions from rent increments, and those receiving affordability benefits for their utilities also qualify for the broadband program.
The project also seems like an attempt by Cuomo to repair his controversy-riddled image. The governor, who has been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by multiple women recently, which he denies, witnessed swift backlash for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics argue that Cuomo’s initial refusal to close New York down as the virus spread resulted in needless tragedy.
With this broadband initiative, the governor could salvage some of his repute. "High-speed internet is essential to our everyday lives,” Cuomo said, “and 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. Remote learning, remote working, and telemedicine are not going away.”
“This [broadband] program — the first of its kind in the nation — will ensure that no New Yorker will have to forego having reliable home internet service,” Cuomo added, “and no child's education will have to suffer due to their economic situation.”