Officials: End fiber optic fee

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Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Herkimer County Board of Legislators Chairman Jim Bono have called for the elimination of an expensive Department of Transportation fiber optic fee that they say is restricting broadband access in their communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made it abundantly clear how essential it is to have quality broadband infrastructure in place,” Picente said in a statement.

“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,” the Oneida County executive added.

In a support letter to lawmakers to eliminate the fee, the two county leaders said that the fee is “imposing an unnecessary tax burden and dramatically increasing the cost of expanding access to broadband.”’

They added 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 of their underserved communities.

“As Herkimer and Oneida counties are preparing to move forward with vital broadband expansion improvements into underserved areas, costs are becoming prohibitive due to unnecessary and high fees when this infrastructure is located on New York State highways,” Bono stated. “If New York is serious about expanding the connectivity in rural areas, it needs to abolish these fees to make it more realistic and affordable for our residents and the private entities who are considering the investment.”

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