Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Friday requiring all Internet service providers in New York to offer affordable high-speed access for low-income families.
The providers can charge those families no more than $15 a month, Cuomo said during a briefing Friday at the Northland Workforce Training Center in Buffalo. He was joined by Eric Schmidt, former chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc., who chairs a 15-member state commission focusing on using technology to help the state reopen better than it was before the virus.
Cuomo also 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.
The bill passed by the state legislature caps a basic broadband plan at $15 a month and a higher-speed one at $20. Currently, a basic high-speed plan costs on average more than $50 a month, according to a statement from Assembly member Amy Paulin.
Schmidt, who praised the embattled governor for his “extraordinary” leadership during the pandemic, said universal broadband access is the first and most important priority of the commission. Members were concerned about the “hundreds of thousands of people who apparently had no Internet access at all,” Schmidt said, an impediment to learning and tele-medicine.
“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.”