The State Legislature has agreed to repeal the state’s expensive fiber optic installation fee as part of the 2022-23 state budget.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Herkimer County Board of Legislators Chairman Jim Bono both supported legislation that was introduced by Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner to eliminate the fee.

In a support letter to both lawmakers, the county leaders said that the fee was “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."

Picente and Bono say the elimination of the permit fee of $20,000 per mile on state highways will have a significant and positive impact on the build out of broadband in rural counties.

“I am pleased to see that state lawmakers heeded our call and came to their senses on this irrational and restrictive fee,” Picente said. “With this unnecessary obstacle removed, Oneida and Herkimer can now move forward with the essential expansion of our broadband networks into underserved-areas. This will ensure that our communities are able to connect to online services and are afforded better opportunities to thrive and succeed.”

Established by state law in 2019, the state Department of Transportation was imposing a $20,000 per mile fee on fiber optics installed in state right of ways.

Oneida and Herkimer 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.

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