NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday the city would invest $157 million to expand high-speed internet service to low-income residents as part of a plan to offer universal broadband services to New Yorkers.
The service would target 600,000 low-income residents, and to pay for it, de Blasio said the city would charge internet services providers for using the city’s infrastructure.
Over the next 18 months, the financially strapped city would fund the expansion of broadband service in part by diverting $87 million from the police budget, which is being cut, de Blasio said.
But over the longer term, de Blasio said he would seek state legislation to require internet service companies to pay for the use of the infrastructure they use to do business in the country’s largest city of more than 8.3 million people.
“We’re going to fight for a new state law to force the internet companies to actually pay the city of New York for the use of our streets,” de Blasio said at a briefing.
“They’re profiting, but they’re not paying their fair share,” he added. “We need them to pay, and we would use that money to provide even more broadband access for New Yorkers who don’t have it.”
Companies that supply the city with internet service include Verizon, Altice USA Inc’s Optimum, RCN Telecom Services [RTSL.UL] and Charter Communications’ Spectrum.
De Blasio did not call the proposed assessment on the companies a tax and did not say how much it would be. He also did not specify who would provide the service to low-income residents.
The broadband expansion would include 200,000 public housing residents, officials said.
“Not having access to the internet in 2020 is like not having access to public education in 1950,” said New York City Deputy Mayor Phillip Thompson. “Right now, a few companies have a monopoly on providing internet service, and they don’t pay a dime.”
(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Bernadette Baum)