The Business Council of New York State, the state’s leading statewide business and industry association, strongly opposes authorizing the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation to charge fees on private fiber optic companies who occupy state right of ways.
The longstanding practice of locating communications infrastructure along state roads has benefited New York State and the expansion of in-State communications capacity. Dating back to the early 20th Century, telephone and telegraph lines had the legislated right to occupy state highway right of ways free from use and occupancy fees. This public policy, now being subject to reversal, encouraged expansion of communication networks for all people. In modern times the expansion of fiber optics promises to connect all peoples from the most rural areas to densely populated urban settings. The proposal to charge right of way fees runs contrary to publicly stated and roundly touted efforts to provide broadband for all New Yorkers.
Charging fiber optic companies the $195 million estimated over five (5) years under the new implementation of right of way fees runs contrary to established state policy and diverts funds from expansion of broadband and other infrastructure upgrades. Charging right of way fees also creates an opening wedge for more fees and taxes on a single industry for upkeep of transportation projects rather than a broad-based approach, particularly on an industry currently being looked to by policy makers for substantial investments in broadband networks.
As New York State seeks to expand broadband to every region of the State, why would New York change its policy to add additional cost to the process? Permitting fees associated with citing this infrastructure – as well as taxes paid by the companies building needed communications infrastructure – already helps support New York State’s roads and bridges. The addition of right of way fees sends the wrong message in regards to communications expansion by adding fees on (essentially taxing) the fiber optic cable utilized by companies to improve communications, support wireless networks, and upgrade technologies such as 5G.
For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this portion in the executive’s state budget.