After leading the nation in adopting policies that support Broadband deployment with its New NY Broadband Grant Program, NY reversed course in 2019 with the adoption of a new Right of Way fee (think tax) for placing fiber optic cable along State roads. Revenues to be generated by the fee have been estimated as high as $1 billion. Along with the new fee, DOT also now requires Fiber Optic providers to complete ROW boundary line surveys at a cost of $5,000-$10,000 per mile. No other utilities operating in the ROW’s are subject to the new tax or survey requirements. As noted by several upstate legislators in 2020, “[t]his fee does nothing more than disincentivize the expansion of rural broadband and is nothing more than a roadblock for rural broadband expansion.”
Now, U.S. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, from the 21st Congressional District, has called for FCC action against the policy calling it a barrier to closing the digital divide as well as being discriminatory and contrary to federal law (Link). NYSTA applauds the action taken by Congresswoman Stefanik for her recognition of the harm New York’s Fiber Tax is having on closing the digital divide and ultimately the harm this will cause to New Yorkers seeking expanded broadband access.