Andrew Cuomo and Google’s former CEO push to cap web costs for low-income New Yorkers

Eric Schmidt speaks next to Andrew Cuomo
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is a longtime ally of Andrew Cuomo. | Alejandra Villa/Getty Photos

The legislation limits the price of broadband entry to $15 a month for needy households.

In the beginning of the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tapped former Google CEO Eric Schmidt to assist him pivot New York to the digital age.

A yr later, Cuomo and Schmidt have unveiled the primary main change to state coverage: A brand new legislation signed Friday to broaden web entry to low-income New Yorkers.

Cuomo took the advice from Schmidt’s reform fee, Reimagine New York, and signed a invoice that requires web suppliers like Verizon to supply lower-income households fundamental broadband entry for not more than $15 a month, a cap that Cuomo says is the primary of its variety within the nation. Excessive-speed plans will likely be capped at $20 a month.

About 7 million New Yorkers who at present qualify for presidency help will now have entry to cheaper web — a high-speed plan sometimes prices a median of greater than $50 a month, Cuomo mentioned — making it simpler for them to attend on-line lessons, talk with household, and do business from home. Individuals who lack broadband entry are disproportionately low-income and other people of shade.

“The web is not optionally available,” Schmidt mentioned on Friday, seated alongside Cuomo. “It’s important to training. Consider the era that we might be creating that aren’t studying as a result of we didn’t give them the best entry — they usually’re those most in danger that want it most of all.”

The legislation is essentially the most vital accomplishment so far from the Schmidt-led fee. The previous Google CEO mentioned from the start that the group would have three priorities: increasing broadband entry, constructing out extra capabilities for digital medical appointments, and enhancing distant studying.

Schmidt is a billionaire philanthropist who splits his time amongst technical points like synthetic intelligence, political points like Democratic campaigns, and the intersection of these tech and coverage pursuits — corresponding to methods to bridge the hole between Silicon Valley’s engineering expertise and the American army.

Some New York progressives have been upset when Schmidt — together with one other main tech philanthropist, Invoice Gates — have been chosen to assist information New York’s post-coronavirus restoration, fearing it might broaden the non-public sector’s affect. A longtime political ally of Cuomo, Schmidt praised the “extraordinary” coronavirus management of the New York governor, who’s managing a number of crises, together with an FBI investigation over whether or not he lined up the overall variety of Covid-19 deaths at nursing houses. Cuomo can also be dealing with unrelated sexual harassment allegations.

Along with the brand new state legislation, Schmidt’s philanthropic group, Schmidt Futures, can also be serving to to finance web entry for the following faculty yr for as much as 50,000 New York households that can’t afford the lowered $15-a-month fee. A whole bunch of hundreds of New Yorkers “apparently had no web entry in any respect,” Schmidt mentioned.

Schmidt portrayed the fee as epitomizing the perfect of philanthropy and the way it can collaborate with the general public sector throughout a disaster.

“That is when New York does its finest — a mix of personal actors and the general public doing the best factor for the advantage of all of the residents,” Schmidt mentioned. “Governor, ship us extra challenges.”

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