Following a sexual harassment scandal that captured the attention of the nation over the past several months, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he will resign as governor, effective two weeks from yesterday. But while New Yorkers may finally be rid of their creepy, handsy governor, the legacy of Cuomo’s disastrous policies will unfortunately continue its negative impact on the Empire State and weigh down attempts at economic recovery and growth.
Ironically, if Cuomo had prioritized working with small businesses, eliminating bureaucratic red tape, and removing onerous taxes, he could have had more small businesses and lower costs. But he instead chose to move in the opposite direction and, as is usually the case, more government involvement in private industry created a nightmare for companies and consumers.
One law in particular from earlier this year is a perfect case study, not only in Cuomo’s dreadful governing record, but in the bullying, Big Government, Blue State model that he so vividly represented. On April 16, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to impose price controls on high-speed internet. Under this bill, providers were only allowed to charge $15 a month to low-income residents, regardless of the cost of providing service. Governor Cuomo celebrated the law, stating, “This program – the first of its kind in the nation – will ensure that no New Yorker will have to forego having reliable home internet service and no child’s education will have to suffer due to their economic situation.”
Almost immediately, the law was challenged by representatives of the telecommunications industry. They asserted that it was grossly illegal and that the state has no legal basis that would permit them to set or regulate the price of internet access.
Cuomo’s office was defiant. They immediately declared, “If these companies want to pick this fight, impede the ability of millions of New Yorkers to access this essential service, and prevent them from participating in our economic recovery, I say bring it on.” The infamously pugilistic Governor made it clear he wasn’t backing down – a trait that would again haunt him during his trial by media over sexual assault allegations a few months later.
In June, a federal court found merit in the industry’s challenge and temporarily banned the measure from being instituted. In the proceedings, it was revealed that the ban and its justification were almost ludicrously ill prepared and planned. When the state was challenged as to how it could legally set the price of a private industry service, they insisted that they weren’t actually setting the price at $15 because providers were free to charge less than $15. Additionally, the $15 price point wasn’t based on any research or knowledge. Even a cursory understanding of the telecom industry would reveal that many providers pay more than $15 per person in taxes and fees alone.
Needless to say, the judge wasn’t buying Cuomo’s argument. Within a matter of months of signing the bill, the state of New York abandoned it and chose to discontinue the case. The decision surprised few insiders. Some analysts theorized the Cuomo plan was mere “political theater.” They alleged that it was an attempt by the Governor to appear tough on corporations while accomplishing very little.
While Cuomo attempted to portray himself as standing up against “big business,” the truth is far more complicated. Many of the fiber optic cables laid across the country are not placed by large corporations. There are a number of small providers who specifically service areas that large providers ignore due to perceived inefficiency and cost. Currently, hundreds of thousands of homes are serviced by these small providers.
These companies had to spend millions of dollars and countless hours fighting Cuomo for their very survival. Additionally, although they technically won the battle, the legacy of the law could lead to a major chilling effect in which providers will be hesitant to provide low-cost fiber optic cables, out of fear they will be financially ruined should a future court rule in favor of a more cunning and well-prepared administration. In effect, Cuomo’s attempt to make internet access more ubiquitous and affordable would have made it more restricted and expensive.
Mercifully, with the three-term governor on his way out, New Yorkers will have a chance to pursue a different direction under hopefully more capable leadership. Unfortunately, however, the failed progressive model that tale exemplifies remains stubbornly in place in Blue State capitals across the country.