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AARP NY to Governor: Sign Bill to Expand Access to Affordable High-Speed Internet

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Legislation Requires Statewide Analysis of Need; 1 in 4 NY Internet Users Limited by Quality, Cost, Availability

ALBANY, N.Y.— AARP New York is calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign into law a bill now on his desk that would take a significant step toward expanding access to affordable high-speed internet – a growing necessity as a result of the pandemic.

The legislation (S8805/A6679) requires a statewide study of high-speed internet accessibility and affordability.

A statewide survey conducted by AARP New York this fall found significant barriers to affordable high-speed internet for around a quarter of New York voters 35 and over, with the hurdles even higher for New Yorkers of color. At the same time, New Yorkers are using the internet at home far more than they were pre-pandemic.

A whopping 87% of respondents said it’s important for the Governor and state legislature to bring affordable, high-speed internet to all New Yorkers, and 72% said they would be more likely to support a candidate who had helped make affordable high-speed internet available to all New Yorkers. Those views were held by the strong majority of voters registered in both major political parties.

“The voters of this State are clear in thinking the Governor should take action, and we agree with them,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “Accessibility to affordable high-speed internet has become a virtual necessity during the pandemic. Governor Cuomo and the legislature have taken some big steps toward ensuring more New Yorkers have access to the internet. Signing this bill to require a thorough statewide analysis would mark another major move to disrupt the digital divide - which is impacting already hard-hit communities of color.”

“Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, New York State has made great strides in expanding broadband access. However, the pandemic has shown that the digital divide remains a pressing economic and social concern for far too many New Yorkers,” said Communications Workers of America (CWA) District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor. “In order to formulate the most effective policies to overcome the various barriers to universal broadband access  - affordability, lack of service deployment, insufficient competition and lack of true high-speed access - we must first have accurate, granular data that defines the exact scope of the problem.”

AARP, CWA and over 20 other organizations earlier this year urged the Governor to sign the bill.

The survey of 749 registered voters found 47% reported using the internet at home more than in September 2019 while only 5% said they were using it less.

But home internet use has been limited over the past year a “great deal” or “moderately” by cost for 25%, by availability for 26% and by quality for 28%, according to the survey, conducted in September and October.

Those hurdles are even higher for New York voters of color; among respondents who lack home fiber optic – generally considered the fastest type of connection - 41% of Hispanic/Latinos and 29% of African American/Blacks cite cost as a major reason, vs. 21% of non-Hispanic Whites. And cost is the number one “main” reason for not having fiber among Hispanics.

That aspect of the digital divide is particularly troubling because Hispanic/Latino and African American/Black voters are especially likely to be using home internet more than before the pandemic compared with White voters, the survey found; over half of both Black (54%) and Hispanic (57%) voters, compared with 45% of Whites, said their household’s home internet usage has increased since the same time last year, according to a survey oversample of 405 Hispanic/Latinos and 403 African American/Blacks.

Contact: Erik Kriss, ekriss@aarp.org

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About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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