N.Y. Lawmakers Propose More Oversight of Broadband Industry

With a focus on Internet quality and resiliency, Sen. Sean Ryan and Rep. Nily Rozic want to give the New York Public Service Commission more regulatory power over broadband service companies.

Broadband connection
(TNS) — Less than a month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation mandating $15-a-month broadband service for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, a pair of lawmakers are calling for the state Public Service Commission to have greater oversight over broadband providers.

Two Democrats, Sen. Sean Ryan of Buffalo and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of New York City, are introducing legislation that would give the PSC the ability to regulate broadband Internet services, including the Voice Over Internet Protocols, or VOIPs, that also carry telephone service for many Internet customers.

"New Yorkers deserve accountability and connectivity when it comes to broadband. This legislation is critical in ensuring that the PSC can regulate this infrastructure and deliver for consumers across New York," said Rozic.

"This bill will ensure the Public Service Commission is authorized to regulate high-speed Internet service in New York as a utility and, in doing so, serve as an important step toward delivering truly universal broadband access to our state," added Ryan.

While the PSC regulates utilities such as electricity and natural gas service, it has no clear authority to regulate Internet services or broadband, which provides the kind of bandwidth or capacity for efficient Internet transactions including emails. Because of the $15-a-month mandate, though, the PSC does have authority to collect mapping data and price information from broadband providers. The proposed measure, though, would go beyond that.

Ryan added that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made broadband even more important for people as they work from home and as youngsters are taking classes online rather than in person.

The measure doesn't appear to focus on rates but addresses the resiliency and dependability of broadband Internet and VIOP service.

For instance, it calls for the PSC to review providers' plans for backup and restoration of service in the event of outages, and it calls for companies to report on their pricing.

The measure also calls for the PSC to provide to the state Legislature annual reports on their quality and resiliency.

Broadband Internet service has long been under scrutiny by lawmakers, especially when it comes to coverage or extending Internet cables to remote or hard-to-reach areas.

New York has allocated money for expanding service in remote areas, but critics have said that some spots remain overlooked due to the cost of stringing cable to reach such customers, including some who live in Albany County's hilltowns south of the city.

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