Flynn, O'Mara say repeal of 'Fiber Tax' would spur broadband expansion

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express

"Constructing a fiber optic network is costly enough without the added burden of paying additional fees to N.Y. State," says Flynn

YATES COUNTY — Local and state government figures have joined efforts to urge the repeal of New York State's costly “fiber-optic tax” which hinders efforts to expand broadband access and close the digital divide in rural communities. 

Yates County Administrator Nonie Flynn

"The vision of the Yates County Legislature is that all residents, businesses and community anchor institutions will have access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet throughout our County," say Yates County Administrator Nonie Flynn. "The NYS DOT PERM 75 regulation severely hinders our progress in reaching this goal."

Last month, State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and several of his Senate Republican colleagues called on Governor Kathy Hochul to repeal the state fee, established in 2019, for accessing state rights-of-way for fiber optic cables. The legislators said this “fiber tax” only applies to broadband providers and stands as a serious obstacle to broadband development and expansion in rural, upstate communities.  

State Senator Tom O'Mara joined several of his Senate Republican colleagues at a Capitol news conference Feb. 15 to highlight the need to repeal the fee, established in 2019, for accessing state rights-of-way for fiber optic cables. The legislators said this “fiber tax” only applies to broadband providers and stands as a serious obstacle to broadband development and expansion in rural, upstate communities.

Flynn agreed, saying, "A concrete example of this most recently was in our design for the implementation of the USDA ReConnect $14.6 million grant that Yates County received.  Because the fees that would have been charged by the NYS DOT to place fiber optic lines in N.Y. State right of ways would have increased our build costs, coupled with the annual fees, we eventually modified our route to avoid the NYS right of way.  Constructing a fiber optic network is costly enough without the added burden of paying additional fees to N.Y. State." 

As a member of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, O’Mara said, “Access to high-speed Internet has become a fundamental need for our families, businesses, farms, local economies, first responders, schools, and the overall success and strength of rural, local communities. We have worked to ensure that rural, upstate New York not be left behind in this mission to bring effective broadband to all New Yorkers, but new initiatives and investments are needed. The single most important action that the state can immediately take is to repeal the 'fiber tax.'  Governor Hochul should give this repeal the urgency it demands to ensure that broadband development across rural, upstate New York receives an equal and fair commitment.” 

O’Mara and his colleagues say that the $8 million in state revenue being generated by the fiber tax is holding up billions of dollars in broadband deployment projects throughout the state.  

"Yates County supports the Senate moving forward the amendment to exempt municipalities from these fees," says Flynn. "Let’s get this passed into law so we can continue reaching all of our premises throughout our County."