BUFFALO, New York (WABC) -- Saying remote learning disenfranchises students without reliable internet, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Friday establishing a first-in-the-nation program to provide affordable $15-per-month high speed internet to low-income households.
The COVID pandemic spotlighted the need for this law, Cuomo said, when so many school districts were forced to switch to remote learning.
"Remote learning, remote working, and telemedicine are not going away," said Cuomo. "This program - the first of its kind in the nation - will ensure that no New Yorker will have to forego having reliable home internet service and no child's education will have to suffer due to their economic situation."
New Yorkers qualifying for this affordable internet program include households who are eligible or receiving free or reduced-price lunch, supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits, Medicaid benefits, the senior citizen or disability rent increase exemptions, or an affordability benefit from a utility.
It also requires providers to report to the Public Service Commission annually on their offers and uptake.
Affordability is a key issue in the fight for universal broadband, as many families cannot afford to pay for broadband service in their homes.
According to state estimates, a basic high-speed internet plan, on average, costs more than $50 per month. Nationwide, 43% of those earning less than $30,000 are not connected to internet at home, and 26% of those making $30,000 to $50,000 remain unconnected at home. It closes to 8% unconnected for those making $75,000 or more.
Meanwhile, nationwide only 66 percent of Black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households, and 53 percent of Native Americans living on tribal lands are connected to internet at home, compared to 79 percent of White households.
To further bridge the internet gap in New York, the State has partnered with Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation to launch ConnectED NY, an emergency fund to provide approximately 50,000 students in economically disadvantaged school districts with free internet access through June 2022.
In addition, Cuomo's administration has launched the Affordable Broadband Portal to help New Yorkers find the affordable broadband programs in their area. This website also includes critical information about the FCC's Emergency Broadband Benefit Program ($50/month subsidy for broadband service, plus a one-time discount of up to $100 on computers and tablets).
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