New York state ‘launches comprehensive plan to improve broadband access and affordability for all’
√ Connectivity Program part of governor's State of the State proposal for $1 billion in new broadband investment under ConnectALL Initiative
√ Says over 2 million low-income families can benefit from internet connectivity
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced a multiagency initiative led by the New York State Department of Public Service to encourage eligible New Yorkers to sign up for the federal government's Affordable Connectivity Program, a newly launched program that provides discounts of up to $30 a month toward internet service for low-income families.
"The pandemic has shown us how access to reliable broadband is an essential lifeline to keep New Yorkers connected to loved ones and professional opportunities," Hochul said. "Internet connectivity for all New Yorkers, including low-income families, helps New Yorkers start a business, find a job, access health care, and communicate with loved ones. It is imperative we ensure there is high-speed, reliable broadband for all New Yorkers."
The Department of Public Service, in coordination with other public-facing state agencies and internet service providers, will lead a statewide, all-of-government awareness and marketing campaign under the governor's ConnectALL initiative to increase enrollment among eligible New Yorkers.
Hochul's team called her ConnectALL initiative, announced on Jan. 5 as part of her State of the State address, as “a transformational investment in New York's communities and digital infrastructure. It will not only ensure available and accessible high-speed, reliable broadband for all New Yorkers, but also that New York will lead the 21st-century connected economy. This effort will not only involve government and community outreach, but work with the state's largest broadband providers to reach eligible New Yorkers.
“For too long, broadband has been out of reach for many New Yorkers because it is not affordable. In addition to reducing costs for consumers through capital investments, the governor's pioneering ConnectALL initiative aims to ensure that every New Yorker eligible to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program is equipped with the information and support they need to enroll and begin benefitting.”
Broadband costs New Yorkers over $60 a month on average. In addition to the $30 a month assistance, financially eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
DPS CEO Rory M. Christian said, "High-speed internet is essential to access basic services and information that we use in our daily lives. With this federal assistance, thousands of low-income families in New York state will be able to gain access to the internet that they so desperately need."
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Hope Knight said, "For too long, broadband has been out of reach for our most vulnerable New Yorkers due to affordability issues. Gov. Hochul's ConnectALL initiative will expand internet access in all corners of the state – from rural state highways to urban centers – while increasing affordability, competition and consumer choice."
Camille Joseph, group vice president of government affairs for Charter Communications, said, "Charter has long been committed to increasing connectivity by addressing broadband access, adoption and affordability, including through the ongoing extension of our broadband network into unserved and rural areas, our Spectrum internet assist low-cost broadband offering for eligible families and seniors, our participation in the emergency broadband benefit program, and our ‘Stay Connected’ program for K-12 schools. Spectrum is proud to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which builds on Charter's long-standing commitment to increase connectivity."
Jen Ostrager, vice president of community affairs for Altice USA, said, "Altice USA is committed to expanding adoption of affordable internet service in New York and, through our Optimum Advantage Internet program and various public and private partnerships, we're proud to provide New Yorkers with our Optimum high-speed broadband at an affordable monthly cost. As a participant in the Affordable Connectivity Program, we look forward to working closely with Gov. Hochul and the Department of Public Service to raise awareness of the program and help more families get connected to high-speed broadband service in their homes."
Tony Lewis, Verizon's vice president of state government affairs and public policy, said, "Verizon is committed to a digitally inclusive and equitable society, that's why we support the new Affordable Connectivity Program and Gov. Hochul's ConnectALL initiative in helping New York consumers get connected to broadband. Eligible Verizon customers can receive a discount on Verizon mobile, Fios, 5G Home or LTE Home Internet postpaid plans, helping more people than ever connect via our broadband services."
Dow Draper, executive vice president of emerging products group at T-Mobile, said, "Initiatives like New York's ConnectALL program align with T-Mobile's longstanding belief that affordable connectivity should be accessible for all, and factors like income limitations shouldn't be a blocker to reliable, high-speed internet services for anyone. We look forward to working with Gov. Hochul and her office to bring this important program to life in New York."
Patricia Jacobs, president – AT&T northern region, said, "Affordable internet – both wireline and wireless – is key to closing the digital divide. AT&T's support of the Affordable Connectivity Program means our customers can reduce the cost of their internet by taking advantage of these long-term federal benefits. Offering low-cost internet options for our customers remains an important priority. We applaud Gov. Hochul for encouraging eligible New Yorkers to sign up for this important benefit."
As part of the initiative announced by Hochul, DPS will directly publicize the federal broadband discount as part of its regular consumer outreach that includes nearly 100 consumer events in 2022, and in its statewide broadband mapping initiative.
DPS will also encourage major broadband providers to promote the program and report on their plans as they develop, including Charter, Verizon and Altice, which collectively serve more than 95% of the state's households, as well as wireless providers AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.
Other New York state agencies involved in the broadband outreach initiative include the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which will direct social services agencies to share outreach materials to clients; and the Office of Children and Family Services, which will promote the broadband subsidy through local departments of social services, child care licensors, child care providers, foster care and voluntary agencies.
Further, the Department of Labor will promote the subsidy through its statewide outreach channels. Homes and Community Renewal will reach out to property owners in its portfolio and provide them with program materials to post in common areas and distribute to their residents. The Department of Motor Vehicles is prepared to do a direct mail and email advertising campaign. Empire State Development is prepared to leverage capital broadband grants and the regional councils to increase awareness and enrollment.
Recently, DPS launched New York's first-ever in-depth statewide mapping study of broadband to identify the availability, reliability and cost of high-speed broadband services across the state. The purpose of the study is to help determine what steps are needed to ensure that all of New York's residential and commercial consumers have access to the internet, as needed. The study, due to be completed in May, will be used to ensure the federal broadband funds are targeted to where they are needed most.