AdkAction helped lead the effort to increase awareness of the negative impact that NYS’s broadband-related fees and taxes were having on the expansion of broadband service in rural NY, especially in the North Country. The good news is that the efforts of many of the elected officials in the North Country along with their peers in the NY Legislature resulted in several significant broadband legislative changes that are in the approved NYS FY23 Budget.
- Reduced state fees for broadband installers. Starting in 2019, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) began charging fiber optic installers a fee to install fiber along a state highway right-of-way. The fee added about $2,000 per mile to the cost of extending a fiber network along a state highway right-of-way. This additional cost often made it uneconomical for broadband providers to extend their fiber networks to serve remaining pockets of unserved/underserved, especially in the Park. With leadership from U.S. Congresswoman Stefanik, State Senator Stec, and North Country State Assembly Members Jones, Simpson, Woerner, Walczyk, and Smullen, language repealing the DOT fiber tax was included in the FY23 Budget.
- Enabled access to excess capacity in existing NYPA fiber. The public authorities law was amended to authorize the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to “to enter into lease agreements with other state instrumentalities and municipal entities for the use of excess capacity in the authority’s fiber optic communications infrastructure to provide affordable, high-speed broadband in un-served and underserved communities in the state.” As background, NYPA has hundreds and hundreds of miles of fiber running across the state, which could directly interconnect to dozens of middle mile providers, such as the Development Authority of the North Country, to provide much needed backhaul and new competition. Securing this provision is a major victory and opens up a number of exciting opportunities to serve unserved/underserved areas in the North Country.
In other major broadband news, “Community Project Funding” and “Congressionally Directed Spending” may help fund remaining broadband access needs in several Franklin County towns. In 2021, Congress reintroduced the ability for lawmakers to target federal spending toward projects in their districts. The FY23 version of the “earmark” program was called Community Project Funding in the House and Congressionally Directed Spending in the Senate. AdkAction worked closely with Lindy Ellis, Franklin County Legislator, and Rachelle Waters, Councilwoman for the Town of Franklin, to support applications to both programs. AdkAction letters of support called for:
- The $1 million in funding requested by Franklin County coupled with a $200,000 match from the County and a broadband provider would cover cost estimates to meet the vast majority of remaining broadband access needs for the Towns of Burke, Chateauguay, Harrietstown, and Westville.
- The $1.1 million in funding requested by the Town of Franklin coupled with a $600,000 match from the Town and broadband provider would enable most of the remaining unserved/underserved households in the Town of Franklin to be served.