Development Authority welcomes repeal of fiber optic tax

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) – Part of the state budget gets rid of a tax on groups that run fiber optic lines to bring high-speed internet to rural areas. For the Development Authority of the North Country, or DANC, repealing that tax will save it millions.

For most, the internet is vital in everyday life. School, work and at home. The need for reliable internet became evident during the pandemic.

There are some rural locations that have little to no access.

Fiberoptic lines are used to facilitate internet providers’ coverage. But officials say expanding fiber optics hasn’t been easy. They say a state fiber tax made it harder to expand lines. That tax is now gone – a change with this year’s state budget.

“With the lifting of this, things are going to be able to pick up the pace. We’re going to be able to pick up the pace again,” said Laurie Marr, DANC public affairs and communications.

The fiber tax had imposed a surcharge on anyone running fiber lines for broadband or internet use over state land.

Marr says although the state championed expanded broadband, this tax was a barrier and its repeal will save DANC nearly $2 million.

“Fiber fees were really a contradiction to that because instead of allowing people to expand, and expand quickly, it really was a deterrent,” she said.

Lewis County decided to come up with a hybrid plan until the expansion of fiber lines became more obtainable.

“We knew that we had to tackle this with a hybrid approach. One being fixed wireless and the other one fiber,” said Lewis County Planning Director Casandra Buell.

Buell says WiFi was the quickest option for some of the underserved areas in Lewis County, like the towns of Lyonsdale and Diana.

But the broader hope is that with the repeal of the tax, expanding access to high-speed internet will speed up.

“Whether you are a kid studying your science homework, or a business trying to just do business, everyone needs to be connected in our region. And this is really going to go a long way in making that happen,” said state Assemblyman Mark Walczyk (R. – 116th District).

Copyright 2022 WWNY. All rights reserved.

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