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WATCH: Gov. Cuomo signs low-cost internet legislation into effect during Buffalo visit

Darren McGee- Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation Friday establishing the first-in-the-nation requirement for affordable internet for qualifying low-income families, as proposed in the 2021 State of the State.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared in Buffalo Friday, during which he signed legislation requiring internet providers offer $15-per-month online service to qualified low-income households.

Cuomo appeared at the Northland Workforce Training Center in Buffalo, where he signed the legislation.

He explained that the COVID pandemic highlighted the many inequalities faced by many in communities of color, including internet access. Such access, he and bill supporters say, is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

“Now you can apply for a new job, you can apply for new training and for new skills, so much information on the internet. Yes, but you have to be able to get there and you need access to broadband," Cuomo said. "You can connect with loved one. You can access government services, you can get a driver's license, you can get a vaccination appointment. All done faster and easier than ever before, if you have broadband.”

Mayor Byron Brown, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Northland president and CEO Steven Tucker were among the guests invited to the ceremony, which was closed to news media. Also in attendance was Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and chair of the Reimagine New York Commission. He and the Ford Foundation are setting up a program which will provide free internet access to an estimated 50,000 public school students through June 2022.

“I think it's exactly the right thing that we should be doing. For all the reasons everybody has said, the internet is no longer optional,” Schmidt said. “I used to give these speeches about how it was optional, just turn it off, you can't do that anymore. It's essential to education, think of the generation that we could be creating that are not learning, because we didn't give them the right access. And they're the ones most at risk that need it most at all. It's a moral duty, it's the right thing to do.”

While the event was closed to local news media, he did field questions via Zoom during a COVID briefing which immediately followed the bill signing ceremony.