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NY lawmaker raises concern over Cuomo low-income broadband plan

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 5:00 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH (WCAX) - A key part of the budget being considered by New York lawmakers includes a proposal by Governor Cuomo calling for $15 broadband for low-income residents. The governor says the measure is the first of its kind in the nation, but North Country lawmakers and industry officials say it could make small companies go belly up.

“Everyone has to have access, not only access but access to affordable broadband,” Governor Cuomo said, in pitching his budget plan. It mandates that internet providers in the state need to offer $15 a month internet plans to low-income families. If you do not do this, you will lose your franchises in the state of New York, and that’s a promise.”

“I mean, who wants to argue about it being affordable? We all want it to be affordable,” said Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury. But he says the plan could be detrimental to the rural internet providers that offer services to most parts of the North Country. He said those independent companies were not asked to give input when the legislation was being written and that the law does not give any breaks to them. “I don’t think the state did a very good job at doing their homework on that and I think there is a lot of risk that we are going to hurt internet service in the North Country.”

Stec says it costs companies tens of millions of dollars to bring internet to rural places like the Adirondacks and that many of their customers would be eligible for the $15 plans. And if the companies can’t pay off their bottom line, they cant provide the service that’s needed. “We can go from having $20 to $25 a month service to having no service,” he said.

He says he also fears that if approved, it will put a halt to companies expanding their fiber footprints. “There may be some service providers that are the only ones that are in the region that are providing a service, and if the state, through the budget process, puts mandates on them telling them what they can charge for their service, regardless of what it costs for them to provide it, you are going to certainly stifle any new investments to expand the service,” Stec said

He says another concern is the potential job losses if companies can’t afford to pay workers to go service a fiber line or come out to rural homes.

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How New York hopes to get better broadband to the North Country

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