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County endorses rescinding of fiberoptic fee

JOHNSTOWN — The rescinding of a fee aimed at fiberoptic companies utilizing New York state right-of-ways was endorsed recently by Fulton County supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors’ Economic Development & Environment Committee passed a proposed resolution at the County Office Building. The full board will take up the issue Monday.

“This was something that was brought to our attention by Essex County and some of the counties up in the Adirondacks,” said county Administrative Officer Stead.

Stead said the 2019-20 state budget contained language that enacted a right-of-way use and occupancy fee for any fiberoptic cables located in or crossing a state-controlled right-of-way.

The budget also authorized the state Department of Transportation to enter fee bearing permits with fiberoptic installers.

He said the same state budget also added Section 7 of the state Transportation Corp. Law, allowing DOT to charge fiberoptic corporations installing and operating the utility lines for fair market use occupancy of the state right-of-ways.

Stead said counties feel the fees are “counterproductive to installation of broadband.” He said counties also feel it is an “extra tax” on fiberoptic installation.

He said organizations, businesses, legislators and residents of northern New York in early 2020 became aware of the fee when DOT started charging it.

In the rural counties of the North Country, Stead said it is virtually impossible to install fiberoptic cables for any distance without utilizing or crossing a state right-of-way. He said development requirements within the Adirondack Park almost entirely preclude installation of broadband in any location other than an existing state right-of-way.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his 2021 “State of the State” address illuminated his connectivity agenda, which included among other provisions the enactment of a requirement for affordable internet for low-income families and a series of actions to promote broadband build-out and market competition.

Stead said Fulton County’s proposed resolution urges Cuomo and the state Legislature to rescind the right-of-way use and occupancy fees on fiber cable immediately “so that the governor’s pledge can be fulfilled and the expansion of the fiber network in the North Country can continue.”

Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Warren Greene said of the fees and the fiberoptic development: “I guess I see the two as kind of intermingling with each other.”

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