High-Speed Internet Could Face Tighter Regulation In New York

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NEW YORK NOW – High-speed internet in New York could soon be regulated like other utilities — think electricity and gas — if members of the state Legislature move on a bill introduced Monday to more tightly monitor the industry.

The legislation would allow the state to treat high-speed internet as a utility, which would empower regulators to drill down on the industry, like they do with other utilities.

Sen. Sean Ryan and Assm. Nily Rozic on Monday, May 3, 2021 Credit: New York NOW

Sen. Sean Ryan, a Democrat from Buffalo who sponsors the bill, said Monday that the measure is intended to ensure that consumers can rely on internet companies to provide a stable, consistent connection that reflects the speeds they pay for.

“We would never accept this type of service from the electric company,” Ryan said. “Right now it’s just the consumer versus the large companies, and consumers always come out on the wrong end of that transaction.”

The bill would empower the state Public Service Commission, New York’s utility regulator, to oversee internet service providers and regulate how they deliver broadband.

Those companies, through the bill, would be required to submit information on broadband reliability and pricing to the commission, and would have to create a plan for providing the service during, or immediately after, a public emergency.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic, a Democrat from Queens who sponsors the bill in the Assembly, said the legislation would hold internet service providers accountable to consumers in ways that currently aren’t possible.

“New Yorkers deserve accountability and connectivity when it comes to broadband,” Rozic said. “It’s critical in ensuring the PSC can regulate this infrastructure and deliver for consumers across New York.”

The bill would follow legislation approved as part of the state budget this year that requires internet service providers to offer broadband to low-income consumers at prices as low as $15 per month. Several internet companies have already sued to overturn that law.

Representatives from the industry didn’t immediately comment on the legislation Monday.