New Yorkers needing affordable internet will have to wait

A judge tossed progressive legislation on the ice

Eastern District Judge of New York Dennis R. According to Hurley, Internet access is a “modern necessity”. Unfortunately, Judge Hurley wrote down those words in an injunction that was filed today, to block a piece of progressive legislation that would mandate affordable Internet availability for all people living in New York State — and Which will come into effect at the beginning of next week.

The bill, known as the Affordable Broadband Act, would require ISPs serving more than 20,000 homes to offer two low-cost plans: one offering 25 Mbps speeds for no more than $15 per month. does, and the other offers 200 Mbps down. Over $20 monthly. It was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Cuomo in April, and will go into effect on June 16.

According to State Assembly Member Amy Palin, the average monthly cost of Internet access for New Yorkers is $50; In general, Americans can pay almost twice as much for broadband access as Europeans.

Of course, there were no telecom lobbies before the bill was signed. sue to stop it from being enacted. According to axios, NY Governor Cuomo was quoted as saying that the lawsuit was “nothing more than a transparent attempt to advance profits by billion-dollar corporations to create a more fair and just society.” And, love or hate the guy, he has a point.

ABA isn’t dead in the water, but Judge Hurley’s eleventh-hour injunction doesn’t hold up. In their determination, they found that its enactment was likely to cause “irreparable harm” to telecommunications companies – either because they are hit with civil penalties for failing to meet ABA requirements, or lower fees for services. Loss of revenue from taking—among other, ground-level findings that found the injunction valid.

A particularly interesting arrow in Judge Hurley’s quiver, however, was to weaponize other existing programs that help make Internet access affordable, most notably the FCC’s emergency broadband benefits:

While the stated purpose of the ABA is to expand access to broadband Internet, that does not mean it is the only legislative effort to do so. Plaintiffs discuss multiple federal programs allocating billions of dollars to achieve the same goal […] While the defendants argue that the New York Legislature determined that these federal benefits were insufficient, this determination was made prior to the FCC’s April 29, 2021 announcement that emergency broadband benefits would become effective May 12, 2021.

Emergency broadband benefit is critically different from ABA in several ways. It does not limit the cost of Internet access in any way, and unlike the ABA it is means-tested: applicants need to meet specific economic criteria to qualify. Those who do this can get $50 off their monthly bill.

So: For now, just like the ABA, New Yorkers hoping for reliable broadband at a reasonable price point are in limbo. While the injunction casts a huge shadow on the future of the law, it is at the end of the day essentially just a judge saying “Look, I need more time to sort this all out.” Hopefully, with some careful consideration, New York can still break into the almost comically convoluted telecoms sector.

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