New York State

Why Cuomo shot down a bill to study municipal broadband

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the bill was “well-intentioned” but that it would be too expensive to complete.

Broadband cable drums.

Broadband cable drums. Shutterstock

Among a brace of legislation vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the end of 2019 was a lesser noticed bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and state Sen. Rachel May, which would have directed the state to study whether a state-owned and operated internet service would be feasible in New York. As reported in the Democrat & Chronicle, Cuomo vetoed the legislation at the beginning of December, explaining that it was “well-intentioned” but that it would be too expensive to complete.

Rural areas across the country, including in New York, have suffered from a lack of access to broadband service, even as businesses, schools and everyday services like health care rely more and more on high-speed internet. And while New York has a $500 million grant program called Broadband for All, which offers state funding to local internet service providers to build out their networks in unserved areas, there are still calls for a state-owned broadband service, which, supporters say, would reach those rural areas and other underserved corners of the state that telecom giants don’t currently service. 

While New York won’t move forward with a bill to study that option, some cities across the country have already adopted municipal broadband, including Fort Collins, a city of fewer than 200,000 people in Colorado. Meanwhile, on the Democratic presidential campaign trail, rural broadband has become an issue for some candidates as well. Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed a plan in August that would create a public internet option and make it easier for municipalities to build their own networks.

Still, Cuomo suggested that he isn’t opposed to the idea of municipal broadband. The governor said last month that he and lawmakers might revisit the idea of a feasibility study on municipal broadband at the beginning of this year.

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