New York City tenants may get free WiFi soon -- at least if a new bill is passed.
Last week, NYC Council Member Ben Kallos introduced a proposal that would require some landlords to provide (and pay for) tenant internet service. It's a move designed to -- at least in part -- spur more COVID-19 vaccinations in poorly wired communities.
"You can't get a vaccine if you can't get online to schedule or even find an appointment," Kallos said. "This pandemic has shown that the internet is now a necessity."
It's true. A new report shows a big disparity in vaccination rates across New York City neighborhoods. In areas where few residents had internet, rates of vaccination were much lower. Kallos' proposal, introduced on Oct. 7, attempts to address these discrepancies.
Are you a landlord in NYC? Worried how this might impact your units and bottom line? Here's what you need to know.
The Wi-Fi bill
Kallos' bill would only apply to buildings with 10 or more units, so if your properties are smaller than this, you won't be impacted -- at least with this current version of the bill.
If your building or buildings have 10 or more units, you'll need to do a few things. First, you'd need to make sure your units are wired for the internet. According to the proposal, this might include "installation of Ethernet ports."
On top of this, you would also need to pay for the broadband service to each unit. Dialup is not allowed, and the service would need to meet FCC-recommended speeds. Currently, that's 25 megabits per second (for downloads) and 3 megabits per second (for uploads).
As for newly constructed buildings with 10 units or more, the legislation would have similar requirements: Units must be wired for the internet, and service would need to be provided for free.
The city may offer financial assistance for landlords who need it, but no other details or official program has been announced yet.
"We always knew about the digital divide, but it became even more stark during this pandemic, since it limits access to critical resources such as health information," said Minerva Tantoco, NYC's first chief technology officer. "Broadband access for new construction and existing buildings should be required."
Ultimately, the bill was referred to the Committee on Housing and Buildings for review. If passed, landlords would need to comply by Jan. 1, 2026, or face penalties.
The bottom line
Changes may be coming down the pike for NYC landlords. If you have a 10-unit building or large or are considering buying one, make sure you keep these potential requirements in the back of your mind. You may need to plan for renovations (and the costs of them) if your building isn't up to speed.