State launches awareness effort for discount internet for eligible families

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ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced a multi-agency initiative 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 healthcare, and communicate with loved ones,” the governor added.

The state’s Department of Public Service, in coordination with other public- facing state agencies and Internet service providers, will lead the statewide campaign — part of the ConnectALL Initiative — to increase enrollment among eligible New Yorkers.

The ConnectALL initiative, unveiled last Wednesday as part of Hochul’s State of the State address, is 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,” Hochul said.

“This effort will not only involve government and community outreach, but work with the state’s largest broadband providers to reach eligible New Yorkers,” the governor added.

Broadband costs New Yorkers more than $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, the announcement said.

“For too long broadband has been out of reach for our most vulnerable New Yorkers due to affordability issues,” said Hope Knight, Empire State Development acting commissioner, president and CEO-designate. The 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.”

Most of the state’s broadband internet companies are participating in the awareness campaign, including Charter Communications, which owns and operates the Spectrum networks.

“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,” said Camille Joseph, group vice president/government affairs for Charter Communications.

“Spectrum is proud to participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which builds on Charter’s long-standing commitment to increase connectivity,” Joseph added.

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, childcare licensors, childcare providers, foster care and voluntary agencies.

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, the state officials said.

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