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NY will require $15 high-speed internet for low-income families starting in June

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016

Large internet service providers will be required to officer plans for high-speed connections at $15 per month to low-income customers starting in the middle of June after legislation on the mandate was signed into law Friday.

New York state will also partner with philanthropic organizations to provide free high-speed internet access to 50,000 students in low-income school districts for one year.

“For America, broadband holds great power,” Cuomo said. “It will either be the great equalizer for society, or it will be the great divider.”

The requirement that internet service providers offer plans at $15 per month to low-income customers was included in this year’s state budget, which was approved last week. Cuomo, on Friday, signed the budget bill into law that contained the mandate.

Eligibility for the program isn’t actually based on income. It’s based on whether a customer qualifies for some form of public assistance, or an existing affordability benefit from a utility provider.

Internet service providers don’t have to start offering the plans until two months from Friday, per the legislation, landing availability in the middle of June.

Not all internet service providers will have to offer those plans. The requirement only applies to companies that service more than 20,000 households, though the state’s larger internet providers — like Spectrum and Verizon Fios — will qualify.

For $15 a month, those customers will have access to high-speed internet with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps. That’s basically enough to surf the web and stream television.

But if a customer needs higher speeds to accommodate a larger family, they can pay a few dollars more for a faster connection. The law requires internet service providers to also offer plans at $20 per month with download speeds of 200 Mbps.

For the 50,000 students that will be offered free high-speed internet for the next year, it’ll depend on where they live.

The program will offer data-enabled mobile hotspot devices to those students, rather than through a hardwire connection, according to its website. Availability will depend on whether their district is approved by the program to participate.

Dan Clark is the host and producer of New York NOW, a weekly television show focusing on state government produced by WMHT in Albany. Clark has been reporting on New York state government and politics for the last six years, during which time he's worked out of the state Capitol in Albany. Clark reported for the national political fact-checking publication PolitiFact, the Buffalo News, the statewide political television show Capital Tonight, and most recently the New York Law Journal. At the New York Law Journal, Clark has focused on state legal challenges to President Donald Trump, as well as litigation concerning laws enacted by the New York State Legislature. Clark covered the Legislature in each role he's held and is a familiar face to state lawmakers and staff. Clark is a native of Afton, NY in Chenango County. He's lived in Albany with his husband since 2011.