'All it's going to do is kill would-be projects,' lawmakers say of proposed broadband tax

Oct 8, 2020

Internet broadband is a major problem in rural New York State and local public officials are blasting a new state tax as making installation of broadband even more expensive.

There are a lot of people in Western New York who didn't realize broadband was an issue until they had to work from home and their kids were schooled at home. There are a lot of areas where there is no web service.

Niagara County Legislator Dave Gregory said a Microsoft study reported only 40% of the buildings in his county have adequate service and in neighboring Orleans County, service may be worse, even with Microsoft hot spots mounted on town buildings across the county.

Gregory disagrees with the governor, who has said the internet is everywhere.

"When the governor says you've covered 99%, Microsoft - who looks at those transactions every single day, - says you only have 40%. So we're here to support Senator Ortt to kill this tax once and for all and bring in our ISP vendors to build out that high-speed reliable internet so no child is left behind," he said.

State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said the broadband tax is the worse of both worlds.

"The problem is this isn't going to raise revenue. All it's going to do is kill would-be projects," Ortt said. "As these folks will tell you, there's already a lot of impediments to get companies to expand broadband, because you don't have that market share that you would have if you were putting broadband in Amherst."

Gregory and Orleans County Legislature Chair Lynne Johnson said the tax is scaring web businesses away, because not only is the tax on installing fiber optic line, but it's an annual tax, not just a one-time charge. Johnson says if a company comes into her county, the tax cost means they will install less new service.

"On my way here, I got a call from my office, from a woman who has two twin 11-year-olds in Orleans County and Spectrum stopped within 1,000' of her home," Johnson said, "and her schoolchildren are falling behind because they have to go, when she comes home from work, to a WiFi hot spot in order to do their homework."