The most obvious is a provision included in the state budget in 2019 that allows the Department of Transportation to charge a per foot fee for fiber-optic cable located along state highways. There’s no real need for this — it doesn’t cost the DOT anything to have fiber-optic cable running along existing poles through its right of way — and there is a great disadvantage: it makes it utterly uneconomic to reach certain destinations.
Kevin Lynch is director of operations for Slic Network Solutions, which is wiring much of the Adirondacks with fiber. His job is hard enough (among other things, there’s an almost pole-by-pole negotiation with the utilities for access to the existing infrastructure). But, as he explains, in some cases that DOT fee makes their work utterly impossible.
Consider, for instance, an area in Louisville, west of Massena in St. Lawrence County. They want to build a 2-mile extension along state Route 37, to reach a marina along the St. Lawrence River — it would pass 13 homes, which would get high-speed internet as a result, and the marina, a useful part of the local economy, would be able to have the service that any going business now requires. The town received a $20,000 grant from the St. Lawrence River Redevelopment Authority for the work, which is a good acknowledgement that it would make sense for the local community.
But, because of the DOT “right of way occupancy fee” of $2,689 for the 2 miles — a sum that would have to be paid each and every year — Lynch says the service “can’t be operated at even close to a break-even fee.” Again, it’s not that this cable strung from poles would actually cost the Department of Transportation anything. They’re just collecting some money.
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