Altice USA, Greenlight Networks say NY fiber tax repeal will speed rollouts

Frontier Communications, Altice USA and Greenlight Networks praised New York officials for scrapping fees commonly referred to as the state’s “fiber optic tax,” claiming the move will allow them to reallocate thousands of dollars toward deployments and speed broadband rollouts.

The “fiber optic tax” refers to fees which in recent years were levied on fiber companies looking to use state-owned rights of way. In New York’s state budget for fiscal year 2020, legislators estimated such fees would generate $15 million in revenue for fiscal 2020, $30 million in fiscal 2021 and $50 million annually thereafter.

But politicians repealed the fees as part of the state’s recently approved fiscal 2022 budget. State Senator Tom O’Mara said in a statement “This ‘fiber tax’ repeal is the single most important action the state can immediately take to try to ensure that broadband development across rural, upstate New York receives an equal and fair commitment.”

Fiber players operating in the state agreed. An Altice USA representative told Fierce the tax was “duplicative of the franchise fees we currently pay, and the new permitting process resulting from the fee has created significant delays for our fiber build.” The repeal is a “positive step to support our accelerated fiber deployment in the state,” the representative added.

Meanwhile, Lori White, Government Affairs Manager at Greenlight Networks, told Fierce the move will allow it to “redirect hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and invest that money where it should be used – expanding our fiber network to reach more homes across the state.” New York-based Greenlight Networks recently outlined plans to expand its footprint from 80,000 locations today to 800,000 over the next five years.

“Greenlight Networks can once again economically build on state roads, which will make our network routes more efficient and allow us to serve residents who live on those roads,” White said. She added “A productive next step by the state would be to review the pole application process and make ready issues that if addressed could also significantly and positively impact broadband deployment across the state.”

Frontier also backed the move, with a representative telling Fierce it is “in favor of anything that makes it easier and more accessible for communities to enjoy the benefits of fiber-optic technology.”