ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — There’s no doubt the pandemic has changed how much time many of us spend behind a screen as work, school and events have gone virtual. And, in turn, our reliance on reliable internet has grown. 

Within about 60 days, internet service providers in New York State must offer affordable plans to low-income households. The cap is $15 per month, including taxes and fees for a basic plan, or $20 for a plan with greater download speeds.

To qualify, the household must be eligible for the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, Medicaid, the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, the Disability Rent Increase Exemption, or is a recipient of an affordability benefit from a utility.

While the Alliance for Quality Education had sought completely free internet for low-income families, the organization says they’re happy to see this provision in the budget. 

“We are thinking that remote learning, particularly for students and teachers, remote learning for some is not going to go away any time soon, especially in light of the uncertainty around coronavirus and how quick vaccinations can curb yet another wave,” said AQE Policy and Operations Director Marina Marcou-O’Malley.

Bill Ferris with AARP New York says the measure will also benefit older New Yorkers to help connect them with their families and healthcare professionals virtually. He also says the Public Service Commission is being required to examine and map broadband in the state.

“If you have a low-income benefit for internet access and it really doesn’t exist in your area, it doesn’t really serve the purpose of the intent of the legislature. So these proposals go hand in hand,” Ferris said.

The State is also partnering with Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation to provide free internet to about 50,000 students in economically disadvantaged areas through June of 2022.