ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Throughout the pandemic, we have learned that the internet isn’t just a luxury, it has been a necessity. Albany is making that a reality by creating city-owned, high-speed internet service.

“It’s like electricity, it’s like water, and we all need to recognize that,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

With funding from the American Rescue Plan, Mayor Sheehan said she is making it a priority to have an internet provider for all city residents.

“The bottom line is that we need to have internet access for everyone at some level of speed. Then we need to challenge ourselves to be a world class city, and a world class provider of internet access for our small businesses,” she said.

Mayor Sheehan said 60% of Albany residents said they don’t have internet services because of the price. Now, in the digital age of remote learning and working from home, local officials, including the county, are pushing to change that.

“This shouldn’t be an issue going forward, and parents shouldn’t have to worry about how can I get the internet or do I have to pay the heat bill,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy. 

“I can’t think of anything we don’t do without the internet,” said Zarina Jalal, pharmacy manager at Lincoln Pharmacy in Albany.

Jalal said there has been a major digital divide for the underserved and black and brown communities.

“A lot of people, especially in my neighborhood, have struggled to use online appointment based models. Even when it comes to scheduling COVID vaccines, or state run sites, it has been online only. A lot of my customers and a lot of people in this neighborhood don’t have access,” she said.

The city of Albany is in the process of forming a team of researchers to find a quality internet provider for all. Applications for board candidates are due by April 30.