The recent pandemic has compelled many families to change. Some are now working from a home regular basis. Though some children have gone back to school life, many are still depending on distance learning. So, the need for reliable and fast internet connections has now become now more important than it was about a year ago. Big Telecom pushes back New York’s new low-income broadband law
This month, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that forces New York internet providers to provide low-income households broadband service for $15 per month. This favor is not a subsidy that is covered by the state but a mandate that ISPs lower their high-speed internet rates for eligible applicants.
“Remote learning, remote working, and telemedicine are not going away. 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,” Governor Cuomo said in a televised statement (below).
Various telecom groups are resisting this law. USTelecom, CTIA, the New York State Telecommunications Association, and others are suing the state, claiming it lacks the authority to dictate broadband rates. According to Axios, the coalition of trade organizations states the law will create obstacles in providers’ efforts to upgrade their infrastructure.
The plaintiffs highlight that the rate regulations are the realm of the federal government – particularly the FCC which already proposed subsidized broadband. Congress approved the program in February.
“While well-intended, this bill is preempted by federal law and ignores the $50 monthly broadband discount recently enacted by Congress, as well as the many unprecedented commitments, donations, and accommodations that broadband providers have made for low-income consumers since the pandemic began,” they said.
Since 2011, for instance, Comcast has had a low-income rate plan, and in February, it increased the download speeds to 50Mbps – about two folds.
Moreover, it is necessary to point out that the $50 per month federal subsidy, set to launch in May, would almost certainly be a better deal. If you take Comcast as an example, the $10 per month low-income plan gets the customer 50Mbps down/5Mbps up with a 1.2TB monthly data cap.
In contrast, taking benefit of the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Relief Program with the same provider gives customers 200Mbps down/5Mbps up with no cap for free or a gigabit plan for $35 per month – based on Xfinity’s current rates.
The trade groups highlight that New York’s law is unnecessary and supersedes already enacted federal provisions. One cannot overlook the fact that these groups and the providers they represent have a Contingent interest in subsidies versus rate mandates.