SUNY Students Should Enjoy Affordable Internet Access

Deborah F. Stanley

It has been clear for years that high-speed Internet access is not a privilege, but a necessity that is the key to academic, professional and personal success.

The federal government has recognized this reality by including $65 billion in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 to help bring broadband to underserved areas of the country.

The truth is that we have a lot of catching up to do, and while infrastructure funding is essential, it is only one piece of the puzzle. For too many families, high-speed internet remains both out of reach and unaffordable. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 19 million Americans nationwide do not have access to broadband with basic speeds.

In New York, the largest share of households without internet access are in New York and Long Island – and 14% of households earning less than $30,000, as well as nearly 10% of households earning less than $50,000 do not have access to it.

Governor Kathy Hochul is delivering one of the most aggressive and transformative broadband plans in the nation. The governor’s ConnectALL plan aims to connect all New Yorkers to broadband, regardless of income or where they live.

SUNY also has a role to play. As current students complete their college semesters and return home for the summer, and incoming students prepare for the fall, we are working to connect eligible students to the Federal Affordable Connectivity Program who, through the work of the Senator Charles Schumer and New York’s Congressional Delegation, now offers deep discounts on the Internet.

The program offers a $30 per month discount on Internet services to households with students who receive Pell Grants. That’s $360 in savings per year. Plus, these students are eligible for a one-time $100 discount on the purchase of a laptop, desktop, or tablet.

At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, classrooms in thousands of schools across the country transitioned to online or distance learning within weeks. Online learning, which used to be an option for some students, has become a mandate.

This sudden change shocked everyone. But that presented particular challenges for those who relied on computers in campus libraries or relied on their campus WiFi to get online. Miles from campus, often with no transportation alternatives, thousands of students found themselves scrambling to get online. Worst case WiFi was only available in the parking lot of the nearest cafe or fast food restaurant.

These unexpected burdens ultimately contributed to students’ educational and financial hardship and the exodus of those from low-income backgrounds before graduation. We must do better. SUNY commends the White House and Congress for giving students another tool in their affordable Internet toolkit.

To students enrolled in New York State’s more than 200 public and private colleges and universities—and their families—our message is: In a time when affordability and opportunity are the top priority, this federal funding is here for you. Take it to your advantage. Then focus on what matters most: your future success.

Deborah F. Stanley

For more information or to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program credit, visit: https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/.

Deborah F. Stanley is Acting Chancellor of the State University of New York.

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