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Federal Judge Suspends New York’s Affordable Internet Law


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Photo: Karen Bleier / AFP (Getty Images)

In a huge victory for internet service providers, a federal judge granted on Friday a preliminary injanointing to block a New York law requiring affordable Internet access for low-income households.

Lobbyists representing AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and other telecommunications companies have fiercely opposed the legislation, known as the Affordable Broadband Act, and sued New York shortly after its signature and adoption by Governor Andrew Cuomo in April. Originally slated to go into effect next week, the bill would require ISPs serving more than 20,000 homes to offer two low-cost plans to eligible customers: one with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps for no more than $ 15 per month, and another offers download speeds of at least 200 Mbps to a maximum of $ 20 per month. The state attorney general would be able to impose penalties on vendors of up to $ 1,000 per violation.

The bill is not yet dead, but this last minute injunction is not a good sign. In his ruling, New York Eastern District Judge Dennis R. Hurley described Internet access as a “modern necessity.” However, he also endorsed the ISPs’ argument that the law is likely to cause “imminent irreparable damage” to their bottom line, whether through lost revenue or penalty payments.

Three of the companies told the court the law would reduce their annual net income by at least $ 1 million each. The bill also requires companies to promote these new affordable plans to low-income customers, an advertising campaign that Verizon estimates would cost between $ 250,000 and $ 1 million.

“While a telecommunications giant like Verizon may be able to absorb such a loss, others cannot,” Hurley wrote. “The Champlain Telephone Company, for example,” estimates that nearly half of its existing broadband customers will be eligible for reduced rates, “with each customer” causing a monetary loss. “

However, state prosecutors rebuffed the fact that these statistics are not supported by any financial records. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said Friday New York plans to continue defending the bill.

“We have always known that major telecommunications companies would go out of their way to protect their profits at the expense of New Yorkers who most need access to this vital public service,” Azzopardi said in a press release via Axes. “We will continue to fight for them. “

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