By: Ilana Siyance
The New York City council is considering a bill which, if passed, could turn internet into a free building amenity such as hot water and heat.
As per Time Out NY, Councilman Ben Kallos introduced a bill proposing that all new construction in NYC should be required to have wiring for internet. The bill would also require that within three years, all landlords with over 10 units should provide free broadband internet to residents. Kallos, elected in 2013 and lauded by the Times for his “fresh ideas ”, represents District 5 including the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island and East Harlem.
The measure puts landlords on the line to provide internet directly to every unit through Ethernet, saying that internet should be treated like other essential utility, to do away with the digital divide. The bill writers suggest landlords could purchase a bulk rate service contract with internet service providers like Spectrum, Altice, Verizon, or RCN, obtaining up to a 50% discount on retail fees, bringing costs down to as little as $14.95 a month per unit for 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits per second for uploads. Tenants would then have the option to pay for additional speed. Also, as part of the law, a fund would be created by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), to help existing building owners with demonstrated financial need.
Currently some 500,000 NYC residents have no internet in their homes. In Brooklyn’s Borough Park one-third of households have no internet, and one-quarter of East Harlem homes are living without it. Without internet, students have been unable to attend classes on zoom, and workers have been impaired from keeping up with the digital age. “Every New York City apartment comes with heat, hot water, electricity, and a phone line. It’s time to add internet, so it is there and just works when a tenant moves in,” Kallos said. “We can finally end the digital divide and bridge the homework gap by making sure every apartment in New York City comes with internet. You can’t get a vaccine if you can’t get online to schedule or even find an appointment, this pandemic has shown that the internet is now a necessity.”
In March, NYC already announced that all new subsidized affordable housing will be required to provide free internet access.