New Yorkers who need affordable internet will have to wait

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Internet access is a “modern necessity,” according to Dennis R. Hurley, a judge in the Eastern District of New York. Sadly, Judge Hurley penned those words in an injunction filed today to stop a piece of progressive legislation that would have required affordable internet availability for anyone living in upstate New York — which would take effect early next week. become.

The bill, known as the Affordable Broadband Act, would require ISPs serving more than 20,000 households to offer two low-cost plans: one with speeds of 25 Mbps down for no more than $15 per month, and another with 200 Mbps down. without more than $20 a month. It was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Cuomo in April, and is set to go into effect on June 16.

according to state assembly member Amy PaulinThe average monthly cost of Internet access for New Yorkers is $50; in general, Americans can pay about twice what Europeans do for broadband access.

Of course the bill hadn’t been signed yet or the telecom lobbies sued to stop it of coming into force. according to axiosNew York Governor Cuomo was quoted as saying the lawsuit was “nothing more than a transparent attempt by billion-dollar corporations to make a profit over creating a fairer and more equitable society.” And, love or hate the man, he has a point there.

The ABA isn’t dead in the water, but Judge Hurley’s 11 o’clock injunction doesn’t bode well. In his determination, he determined that its entry into force is likely to cause “irreparable harm” to telecom companies — either because they face civil penalties for failing to meet the requirements of the ABA, or because they lose revenue by charging less for services. – including other basic level findings that allowed the warrant to be found valid.

One particularly interesting arrow in Judge Hurley’s quiver, however, was to use other existing programs that make Internet access affordable, most notably the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit:

While the ABA’s stated goal is to expand broadband internet access, that doesn’t mean it’s the only legislative effort to do so. Plaintiffs Discuss Several Federal Programs Allocating Billions of Dollars to Achieve That Same Goal […] While Defendant argues that the New York legislature determined that these federal benefits were inadequate, that determination was made prior to the FCC’s April 29, 2021 announcement that the emergency broadband benefit would take effect on May 12, 2021.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit differs from the 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 must qualify by demonstrating that they meet specific economic criteria. Those who do can get $50 off their monthly bill.

So, for now, like the ABA itself, New Yorkers hoping for reliable broadband at a reasonable price are in limbo. While the injunction casts a big shadow over the future of the law, in the end it’s just a judge saying, “Look, I need more time to figure this all out.” Hopefully, with some due diligence, New York can still put a dent in the almost comically consolidated telecommunications sector.