For New York City residents, the internet could come at no extra cost with apartments like heat and hot water if the city council passes a new bill.
Councilman Ben Kallos (who represents the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island) introduced the bill on Thursday, October 7, proposing that all new construction in New York City would have to be wired for internet, with all existing housing (with 10 or more units) providing broadband Internet to tenants for free within three years.
The bill proposes that landlords would provide internet directly to every unit through ethernet and could purchase a bulk rate service contract with an internet service provider such as Spectrum, Altice, Verizon, or RCN, which would provide landlords with more than a 50% discount on retail fees, bringing costs down to as little as $14.95 a month per unit for at least 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits per second for uploads. Landlords would not be able to pass on this cost to tenants, but tenants would be able to pay for additional speed at no cost to the landlord.
A fund to assist existing building owners with demonstrated financial need would be created and administered by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) under the new law.
Kallos says the internet should be treated like any other utility because, without it, there's a digital divide.
About 500,000 New Yorkers still have no internet in their homes, with the majority in Borough Park in Brooklyn and East Harlem. Here, only one-third of households in Borough Park and one-quarter of East Harlem households have no Internet.
Not only does lack of internet make it more difficult for students and workers to succeed in this digital age, but it even affects vaccination rates. A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control found that "COVID-19 vaccination was significantly associated with household internet access in New York City at the zip code level," Kallos says.
"Every New York City apartment comes with heat, hot water, electricity, and a phone line. It’s time to add internet, so it is there and just works when a tenant moves in," he said in a statement. "We can finally end the digital divide and bridge the homework gap by making sure every apartment in New York City comes with internet. You can’t get a vaccine if you can’t get online to schedule or even find an appointment, this pandemic has shown that the internet is now a necessity."
To that end, NYC already announced that all new subsidized affordable housing will be required to include internet access at no cost to the tenant according to new design guidelines released in March.
And Kallos has already worked with Attorney General Tish James to advocate for low-cost high-speed Internet for low-income New Yorkers and got Internet Assist at $14.95 for students on free and reduced lunch and seniors receiving supplemental Social Security Income.
The new bill would take this even further.
"NYC has historically led the way in deploying the most current and robust communications technologies for our individual and collective social and economic progress. From the telegraph to the telephone, to broadband, NYC has been the nation, the world’s pioneer," said Professor Jonathan Askin, the founder and director of the Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy Clinic at Brooklyn Law School. "Council Member Kallos’ proposed legislation would ensure that all New Yorkers, individually and collectively, may take fullest advantage of the broadband internet, including maximum access to the universe of online knowledge and the collaborative capabilities of online networks. In this circumstance, NYC is blessed by its density and existing infrastructure, allowing relatively easy and economic deployment of robust broadband internet to all our residents."