Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Stefanik today led a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting an investigation into New York State’s practice preventing broadband buildout in the state by imposing fees in violation of federal law.
In the letter, Stefanik points out that New York State authorized the State Department of Transportation to impose discriminatory fees specifically on fiber optic broadband buildout, creating an additional financial barrier to already expensive projects. This fee is disincentivizing rural broadband buildout by imposing additional bureaucratic and financial costs on the North Country’s broadband providers.
“Albany’s bureaucracy has no problem continuing in their incompetence – this time at the expense of the North Country,” Stefanik said. “Residents of the North Country have been forced to miss out on critical internet access because of New York State’s corrupt practices. While the state continues to line their pockets at the expense of our rural communities, I am proud to continue pushing for results until every resident of the North Country can access affordable high-speed internet from their homes, schools, and businesses.”
The state fee costs the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) up to $1.6 million per year, approximately 25 percent of their budget.
"Broadband is critical to rural residents. However, fees out of Albany have deterred companies from doing the work needed to expand and provide service to the underserved parts of the state," said Assemblyman Mark Walczyk. "I'd like to thank Congresswoman Stefanik for asking the FCC to exercise some common sense on this matter. I'm leading a bipartisan effort to repeal this fiber tax, and we're honored to have Congresswoman Stefanik running the issue to the top of the flagpole federally. I'm hopeful practicality will prevail because it's rural New Yorkers who will come out on top."
“Constituents call my office every week frustrated that they do not have access to broadband- something needs to be done about the obstacles that are currently preventing private companies from building out in our region. I have met with numerous broadband providers who are frustrated with the Department of Transportation fee because they want to continue to build this vital infrastructure in the North Country but no longer can afford to do so. That is why I have continuously advocated to end this Department of Transportation fee and I hope that the FCC will be able to intervene on behalf of people across the North Country who are still waiting to be connected to broadband," Assemblyman Billy Jones said.
“Nearly every day, my office hears from people who are continuing to go without broadband internet,” said Senator Patty Ritchie. “In today’s world, this service is essential. Unfortunately though, the state’s nonsensical broadband fee is stifling the expansion of high-speed internet in parts of New York that need it the most, namely the North Country. I would like to thank Rep. Stefanik for raising this issue on the federal level and am hopeful these efforts will help remove barriers to broadband expansion in underserved areas of our state.”
“I agree with Congresswoman Stefanik and fully support an investigation into this completely counterproductive state policy that is hindering broadband deployment in rural areas,” said Senator Dan Stec. “Small internet service providers want to expand their networks and offer customers access to the digital highway. But the fiber fee is a costly roadblock.”
In the letter, Stefanik requested the FCC preempt the continued enforcement of the unlawful and discriminatory fee, as the fee is in violation of the Communications Act of 1934, Section 253. If the FCC preempts the fee, North Country broadband providers could work faster and more efficiently to close the digital divide in the region without these burdensome fees.
Read the full letter here.