How New Laws Could Bring More Low-Cost Internet Options

Bridging the digital divide

Key Takeaways

  • New York will now require ISPs to cap the cost of broadband for low-income families.
  • The new broadband laws will allow millions of families to access the internet at more affordable rates than what ISPs previously offered.
  • Experts believe similar laws could be used to help push the expansion of low-cost internet in other states, too.
3D rendered image of the globe with global connection lines running across it

DKosig / Getty Images

Experts say broadband laws could be the next step to ensuring everyone has affordable access to the internet.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to offer more affordable internet options to low-income families throughout the state. The new bill will allow struggling families to get the digital access they need for as little as $15 a month. If successful, experts believe this push for better low-cost internet could lead to other states following suit.

"I think policymakers will watch closely [to see if] this is providing benefits to people. I think what you'll see is other policymakers taking that very seriously and evaluating whether it might make sense for their entity—whether it's a city, a state, or a county," Rececca Watts, a regional vice president of Western Governors University, told Lifewire on a call.

Stepping Stones

Watts, who has been very outspoken about the need to close the digital divide, hopes this move by New York will encourage other states and organizations to do the same. She says some other municipalities already are looking for ways to treat internet access as a necessary utility, like water or electricity.

"I think having the state government engaged, having the federal government engaged—municipal government—I think is all really important because each of those levels of government have different responsibilities and resources available to them," Watts said.

"The pandemic really accelerated it, but the need was already there."

Other groups also are pushing for low-cost internet options. Earlier this year, Verizon announced Fios Forward, a more affordable internet option for those who qualify for Lifeline, a government assistance program designed to help low-income customers get connected more easily. The FCC also has started reaching out directly to the community to ensure reliable broadband is offered in as many places as possible.

Connecting Together

The reason these pushes are so important, especially now, is because they can affect so many. Whether you’re an adult struggling to make ends meet or a student trying to access the lessons you need to complete your classes, internet access needs to be affordable.

When it comes to education, Watts believes affordable internet access is a necessity, especially following the events of the past year.

"The pandemic really accelerated it, but the need was already there," she said. "Schools were teaching remotely, but only if you could access the [online classes]."

student video conference e-learning with teacher on computer in living room at home

Prasit photo / Getty Images

As schools continue to offer remote learning, it’s important that students can access the tools they need to complete their lessons and continue their education. Furthermore, people of all ages rely on the internet for a myriad of uses, including learning new skills.

The internet has opened doors for people that wouldn’t have been available before. Adults who previously worked long hours couldn’t attend classes or other learning-based events. Now, with asynchronous online learning like the kind offered by the Western Governors University, people have more ways to learn additional skills.

"I think policy makers will watch closely [to see if] this is providing benefits to people."

If you limit who has access to the internet, you close those doors and cut people off from the tools they need to create better lives for themselves.

"We are in an information economy. Information is a driver of careers. It is a driver of industry. So when people don't have access to information because they simply can't get to it, it doesn't just affect that individual, or that household, or even that community. It affects whole states, regions, and even nations," Watts said.

Was this page helpful?