New York City

All 51 City Council members back internet affordability program in new letter

After the expiration of the Affordable Connectivity Program, the council wants U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer to extend funding for the subsidy program.

New York City Council Member Julie Won organized a letter on internet affordability that was signed by every council member.

New York City Council Member Julie Won organized a letter on internet affordability that was signed by every council member. Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

All 51 New York City Council members have signed a letter imploring U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer to renew funding for a vital federal program that’s helped nearly 1 million low-income households afford internet service in the city by taking up to $30 off their monthly internet bills.

“High-speed internet connectivity affords people expanded options for an education, to participate in the workforce, to access vital services like health care, and to connect with family and friends around the world,” according to the letter, whose signers urged Schumer to prioritize extending funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act.

Money for the $14.2 billion program ran out in April, threatening the progress that had been made in closing the digital divide over the past couple years. When the program started in December 2021, about a quarter of New York City’s households lacked a broadband subscription. Black, Latino, low-income and senior households were particularly unlikely to have a high-speed subscription.

Of the more than 23 million households enrolled in the program across the country, over 4% live in the five boroughs. New York City school families also became eligible for subsidies under the program, bolstering high-speed broadband access for the roughly 14% of students who lacked access to the internet at home during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With City Council members across the political aisle joining the call for renewed funding, the issue is a unifying one. Very rarely – and certainly not for some time – have all 51 members signed on to the same letter.

“The pandemic proved that internet access is a necessity, not a luxury. Work, school, doctors’ appointments, and government services all moved online,” said New York City Council Member Julie Won, who organized the letter. “Some may argue that the pandemic is over, and internet should only be for people who can afford it. That means, the 1 million New Yorkers who were able to connect to the internet through the ACP will be cut off from our modern world. Failing to restore ACP funding will further widen our digital divide and worsen income inequality for another generation.

“For the first time for my council class, all 51 council members are united. We unanimously speak for all New Yorkers in calling for the federal government (to) renew funding for ACP immediately for digital equity.”