Free internet may soon reach every home in New York

A law that requires free internet for every New York City apartment? If some city officials have their will, it will be a reality sooner rather than later. Councilman Ben Kallos on Thursday proposed a new bill that would require landlords who own buildings with ten or more units to provide tenants with internet or “its functional equivalent,” as the bill indicated. “Such housing would be subject to additional technical requirements,” the bill reads, “including the installation of Ethernet ports and wires to facilitate Internet access. Violations would be penalized under the Household Code.”

The news site Patch reported that Kallos wanted the bill passed to help disadvantaged New Yorkers – there are about 500,000 of those who do not have Internet access. Living without it means that it is a challenge, to say the least, to apply for food benefits, work remotely and even reserve COVID-19 vaccinations.

Ben Kallos in 2019.

Photo: Getty Images / Aurora Rose

The Internet, Kallos believes, should be a utility in the same way that electricity, heat, hot water and telephone service are. Landlords who cannot afford it can apply for assistance, even though he says they are looking at an investment starting as low as $ 14.95 a month to buy internet in bulk.

The digital divide between New Yorkers and the need for internet became apparent during the pandemic. With teleworking and schooling as a way of life and Zoom as a cornerstone, New Yorkers who had to live without it faced roadblock after roadblock: Students could not keep up with school, and staff could not do their jobs. Kallo’s proposal is the first of its kind, according to Shaun Pappas, a real estate attorney at Starr Associates in New York.

Low-income developments, such as those in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, would benefit from the legislation.

Photo: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

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