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Millions of New Yorkers losing internet subsidy

Millions of New Yorkers losing internet subsidy

New Yorkers

Nearly 1 million New Yorkers had signed up for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program before it ran out of funds in April. The initiative provided a monthly credit to internet service providers like Optimum, Spectrum, and Verizon, assisting customers who qualified based on their income. Broadband access is seen as a crucial tool for escaping poverty and obtaining an education, but its costs often put it out of reach for those who need it most. Inequities in internet access were highlighted during the pandemic when the city’s school system scrambled to get 1 million students online at home. Nearly a quarter of New York City’s 8.5 million households lacked internet connections in 2021, and nearly half of the poorest

New Yorkers were without broadband. A new analysis shows that the federal subsidy program was most popular in areas like East Harlem and the South Bronx, which were among the lowest broadband access areas in 2021. Around two-thirds of households in these neighborhoods received discounted internet through the federal program. Roughly 44% of all Bronx households were enrolled in the program. Eli Dvorkin, Editorial and Policy Director at the Center for an Urban Future, noted the gravity of the situation. “The reality is that for nearly 1 million households, if they want to preserve their high-speed internet service, they’re going to have to dig deeper into their own pockets,”

Dvorkin stated, adding that this would be very challenging for these families. The end of federal funding also highlights New York City’s own stalled efforts to expand internet access to low-income residents. Nine out of 10 New Yorkers earning less than $25,000 a year pay at least half their income on rent.

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Struggling to keep broadband access

Many households benefiting from the subsidy will likely forgo internet service once their bills increase, Dvorkin said. Bipartisan lawmakers, including Rep. Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican, are pushing Congress to restore funding for the program. Clarke emphasized in a March statement that the Affordable Connectivity Program is one of the best tools to bridge the digital divide. Once federal funding ends, internet service providers will either cut off service or offer a discounted rate to customers who can no longer afford it.

For instance, Verizon will still offer some low-income plans, while Optimum has a $15-per-month plan for those receiving other forms of financial assistance. Spectrum informs customers their bills will rise once the credit expires and directs them to other potential programs. Approximately 330,000 residents in NYCHA buildings will not be affected due to the Big Apple Connect initiative, a $90 million program under Mayor Eric Adams. However, internet service providers may no longer offer discounts to households not included in this initiative once federal subsidies end. The Adams administration has promoted broader efforts to expand free or low-cost internet citywide.

The Internet Master Plan, developed under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, called for using local small businesses to build municipally owned broadband infrastructure, aiming to deliver affordable internet to over a million New Yorkers. The future of these efforts remains uncertain amidst federal funding challenges.

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