Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Herkimer County Board of Legislators Chairman Jim Bono are calling for the elimination of the state’s fiber optic fee.

They say the expensive Department of Transportation fee is restricting broadband access in the communities.

The DOT charges a $20,000 per mile fee on fiber optics installed in state right of ways.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made it abundantly clear how essential it is to have quality broadband infrastructure in place,” Picente said. “Oneida and Herkimer counties have placed a high priority in assessing our broadband networks and expanding into underserved areas, but the state’s expensive and unfair fiber optic installation fee places a huge obstacle in our path. It must be eliminated.”

Picente and Bono support legislation introduced by Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner that would eliminate that fee.

In a letter to both lawmakers, the county leaders said that the fee is “imposing an unnecessary tax burden and dramatically increasing the cost of expanding access to broadband” and that “it makes no sense to invest state and local resources to leverage new wireline broadband expansion projects” with such an exorbitant fee in place.

Both counties have recently completed a broadband assessment and mapping study, identified projects and public and private partners, and are prepared to move forward to address the needs their underserved communities.

Bono says If New York is serious about expanding the connectivity in rural areas, it needs to abolish fees to make it more realistic and affordable for residents and the private entities who are considering the investment.

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