Staying NY's ABA Mandates Better Serves NY's Digital DivideThe following statement may be attributed to Louis Peraertz, VP of Policy, WISPA:
Washington, DC, June 22, 2021 – WISPA is pleased that the New York State Public Service Commission issued an Order yesterday staying and suspending administrative proceedings to implement the State’s recently-passed Affordable Broadband Act (“ABA”). In pertinent part, the ABA would have regulated the rates and speed tiers of ISPs that provide service to New York households.
While well intentioned, the ABA would have undermined the business plans of those companies bridging digital divides in New York, resulting in less broadband deployment for areas that need it most. At a time when policymakers have redoubled their efforts to get all Americans online, the ABA would have frustrated these important policy prerogatives, harming the outlay of life-bettering internet access to such services as telemedicine, distance learning, remote work and green-tech, among others.
The Order is a logical outgrowth of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York’s June 11, 2021, Order, which granted a motion to preliminarily enjoin the enforcement of the ABA. There, the Federal court explained why Federal law preempts the ABA’s rate regulation of broadband internet service. The court also properly credited the broadband providers’ assertions that the ABA will likely require them to provide these services at a loss, raise advertising expenditures, incur administrative costs due to providers’ need to validate customers’ eligibility, and cancel preexisting business plans for, and expansion of, their broadband networks.
Although the ABA would allow broadband providers that serve fewer than 20,000 households to apply to the Public Service Commission for an exemption, that process would have resulted in all broadband providers – including WISPA’s members who fall far below that subscribership threshold – spending valuable financial resources towards litigating that administrative process instead of towards deploying broadband services.
Taken together, the two Orders best serve the public interest because the outcome allows broadband service providers to focus their resources and energy on continuing to connect customers to this critical service as they struggle to overcome the challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
WISPA’s 1000 members are composed of fixed Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and the industry that supports fixed wireless broadband, including equipment suppliers, support services, and other components needed to run a successful business. Our members, and WISPs, in general, provide broadband access to millions of residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.