New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, joined by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Friday signed a bill requiring internet providers to offer broadband access to low-income families for no more than $15 a month. Higher-speed plans are capped at $20.
“Internet service is an essential service. Now. you need a broadband service if you are going to be able to get an education, to access government services, to contact your family,” Cuomo said at an event at the Northland Workforce Training Center in Buffalo. He was joined by Schmidt, who chairs a state commission on technology as the state reopens.
Many internet providers have voluntarily put in discount plans to help households in need during the pandemic. But this is a mandate, which has passed the State legislature and is part of the recently approved budget. The move may “limit the profit of some of these big corporations,” Cuomo said, “but trust me they are not going to starve.”
He said an emergency fund from Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation will provide free Internet access to 50,000 students statewide through the 2021-22 school year.
“Internet is no longer optional,” Schmidt said. “Think of the generation that we could be creating that are not learning because we didn’t give them Internet access.”
The program, part of the Education, Labor and Family Assistance portion of the budget, will impact seven million New Yorkers and 2.7 million households who qualify as low income. It requires providers to report to the Public Service Commission annually on their offers and uptake. This new affordable internet program will impact seven million New Yorkers and 2.7 million households
Cuomo continues to hold events often closed to reporters across the state, along with more subdued press briefings for Covid updates — even as reports continue to appear of accusations by women of sexual harassment, from groping to kissing to unwelcome looks and comments. He has denied any improper physical contact. In response to a question at a briefing earlier this week, he insisted as has on other occasions that he never mean to offend. “I never meant to offend anyone,” he said. “People can take offense even if I don’t mean offend anyone.”
The New York Attorney General’s Office has named an independent counsel to look into the allegations. The State Assembly has launched a separate impeachment inquiry into the harassment allegations and into how the administration reported nursing homes deaths.