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Judge Blocks New York Law Requiring Affordable Broadband

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  • A federal judge issued a temporary injunction against a New York law requiring affordable broadband.
  • The law, known as the Affordable Broadband Act, was passed in April and would apply to about 7 million low-income New Yorkers. 
  • In issuing the injunction, the judge said the law would cause “irreparable harm” to internet service providers. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge issued a temporary injunction Friday on a New York State law slated to take effect next week that would force internet service providers to provide affordable high-speed internet access to low-income state residents.

The law, known as the Affordable Broadband Act, was passed by the state legislature in April and signed into law by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. It requires internet service providers that serve more than 20,000 households to offer low-income residents broadband with download speeds of at least 25 megabits-per-second for $15 a month.

Under the law, companies can charge low-income residents slightly more, but no more than $20, for faster broadband with download speeds of at least 200 megabits-per-second.

The governor’s office said the law would apply to about 7 million New Yorkers in 2.7 million households, according to a report from Courthouse News Service. The discounted rates would apply to New Yorkers who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, Medicaid, and supplemental nutrition program (SNAP) benefits. 

But New York’s Eastern District Judge Dennis R. Hurley on Friday sided with a group of telecom companies that sued to block the law from taking effect.

He agreed that, if enacted, the law could cause “irreparable harm” and “unrecoverable losses” to the telecom companies, particularly smaller ones because they’d face penalties if they didn’t meet requirements set by the law or because they’d lose revenue by charging customers less, as The Verge reported.

One company, Empire Communications, argued it would have to turn down a federal grant to expand its service if the law went into effect because it “could not afford to invest in this buildout because a large percentage of its potential customers would be eligible for the discounted monthly rates,” as Courthouse News Service reported.

“While a telecommunications giant like Verizon may be able to absorb such a loss, others may not,” Hurley wrote in his decision to issue the injunction. 

In his decision, Hurley also agreed with the telecom companies that the New York law interferes with the work of the Federal Communications Commission because it “regulates within the field of interstate communications.” 

The office of Gov. Cuomo said it planned to push forward on the legislation.

“We always knew big telecom would pull out all the stops to protect their profits at the expense of the New Yorkers who need access to this vital utility the most,” said Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, in a statement to Courthouse News. “We are going to continue to fight for them.”​

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