(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Eric Houghtaling to require certain cable television companies to provide free internet access to public libraries was approved by the Assembly, 71-3-1, on Thursday.
“Public libraries serve as the sole source of the internet for many who need access but do not have it,” said DeAngelo (D- Mercer, Middlesex). “For an individual looking for work or a student working on a homework assignment, the ability to go right to a public library and use the internet is critically important. Free internet service in one or more public libraries in a community will be a great service to residents across the state.”
The bill (A-2240) requires cable television (CATV) companies that are applying for, or renewing, municipal franchises to provide free internet service to at least one public library in the municipality served by the CATV company. The free internet service requirement is to take effect as part of any new or renewed municipal franchise agreement that is issued or approved by the Board of Public Utilities after the effective date of this bill.
“Many residents freely access the internet through their phones, tablets and home computers. Yet, there are just as many residents who do not have the means to cover the costs of internet service,” said Houghtaling (D- Monmouth). “The intent of this bill is simple: to expand access to the internet for residents by putting it in a place that is meant to serve the needs of communities, public libraries. Cable companies can help us lessen the technological divide and better serve New Jersey residents.”
The sponsors note in the bill that the internet is an important source of news, social interaction, and employment opportunities for the public, many of whom are unable to afford the high cost of maintaining internet access in their homes. It further states that by requiring CATV companies to offer free internet service to public libraries, many members of the public who are currently unable to access the internet due to difficult economic circumstances will have a convenient and low-cost means of making use of the benefits and opportunities provided by the internet.
The bill was released by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee on May 12 and will now go to the Senate for further consideration.