Court rules New York ISPs must offer discounted broadband service

A federal appeals court in New York ruled the state can force internet service providers to give deep discounts on service to low-income households.
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A federal appeals court in New York ruled Friday that the state can begin enforcing a law requiring internet service providers to offer heavily discounted broadband services to low-income customers.

The law, New York’s Affordable Broadband Act, was approved by state lawmakers in 2021 and forces internet companies to offer broadband services to low-income households for as low as $15 a month. The law was blocked by a lower court just days before the policy was slated to go into effect.

“If [ISPs] believe a requirement to provide internet to low-income families at a reduced price is unfair or misguided, they have several pathways available to them,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit wrote in its ruling. “They could take it up with the New York State Legislature. They could ask Congress to change the scope of the FCC’s Title I authority under the Communications Act. They could ask the FCC to revisit its classification decision, as it has done several times before. But they cannot ask this Court to distort well-established principles of administrative law and federalism to strike down a state law they do not like.”

In 2021, six telecommunications trade groups sued over the implementation of New York’s Affordable Broadband Act, arguing it would cost them too much money and that it wrongly superseded a federal law that governs internet service, ABC News reported. The telecom groups involved include The New York State Telecommunications Association, the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, America’s Communications Association, USTelecom, the Rural Broadband Association and the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications.


“We are disappointed by the court’s decision and New York state’s move for rate regulation in competitive industries,” the groups wrote in a statement released Friday after the court’s ruling. “It not only discourages the needed investment in our nation’s infrastructure, but also potentially risks the sustainability of broadband operations in many areas. We urge Congress to maintain support for low-income Americans on a nationwide basis.” 

One potential opportunity for Congress to maintain support for low-income Americans is through extending the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, a pandemic-era internet subsidy program used by more than 23 million households that is set to expire at the end of this month. 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation in January that would add a $7 billion extension to the ACP, but the bill has stalled. President Joe Biden’s administration this month called on congressional Republicans to extend funding for the program.

And Last week, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., released a discussion draft about the “Spectrum and National Security Act,” which seeks to provide funding to continue the ACP, modernize the nation’s spectrum policy, restore the FCC’s auction authority, invests in next-generation 911 and supports spectrum workforce training. The bill would allow the FCC to borrow $5 billion from the Treasury to continue the ACP.

Skylar Rispens

Written by Skylar Rispens

Skylar Rispens is a reporter for StateScoop and EdScoop. She previously worked as a reporter specializing in education coverage for daily and weekly newspapers across Montana, where she currently resides.

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