Palmesano Says The Governor Won’t Sign Broadband Bill

March 8, 2021

From Assemblyman Palmesano:

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) is criticizing several actions by the Governor that will discourage broadband development. First, Palmesano objects to a recent decision by Gov. Cuomo to “pocket veto” the “Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act.” Under the state constitution, a “pocket veto” takes place after the Legislature has adjourned. Should the governor take no action on bills pending before him for consideration after the Legislature has adjourned, those bills do not become law and are therefore, “pocket vetoed. “

The legislation had overwhelming bipartisan support in both the State Assembly and Senate. Its objective was to establish a study that would be a statewide analysis of high-speed internet accessibility, affordability and reliability by providing a report and detailed map. The study would have helped to provide useful information to the state on how to provide broadband to areas that have been underserved on this front.

Palmesano is also criticizing the governor for a broken promise to provide funding for the study. The governor cited the cost of the bill for his pocket veto and pledged to include funding for the study in his budget proposal. “The legislation had a $3 million fiscal cost that occurred outside of the budget, thus it wasn’t acted upon,” said Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi in a statement at the time. “However, we agree with it in concept and will be including a proposal in the budget‎.”

Unfortunately, Gov. Cuomo failed to deliver on his promise and did NOT provide the $3 million for the study in his executive budget proposal in January nor in his 30-day amendments in February as promised by his senior advisor.

Palmesano noted the governor needs to fulfill his promise.

“Gov. Cuomo, you need to honor your promise and commitment and provide this necessary funding for this broadband study,” said Palmesano. “We did not need this “study” bill to tell us we don’t have universal broadband access. We know we don’t, even though some in the administration would like us to believe New York has 98% coverage. We needed this legislation because the “study” would have been a critical tool to provide us helpful and useful information to better identify different areas around our state without internet access and then work to connect these households to an accessible and reliable internet service. It’s completely disingenuous for the governor to go on television and talk about how he supports expanding broadband while he simultaneously vetoes this common-sense legislation and then breaks his promise to provide this critical funding in his budget proposal.”

Palmesano is also renewing his call to repeal the costly and burdensome state-imposed Department of Transportation (DOT) Right of Way fee on fiber-optic cable installation, further hindering the ability for many family households, particularly in rural areas, to achieve full broadband and internet access. The fee is being charged by the state DOT to fiber-optic cable installers per foot and per cable, but does not apply to other necessary utility installations, such as phone or water lines.

Gov. Cuomo and the Assembly and Senate Democrat Majorities pushed for and authorized this onerous fee in the adopted 2019-2020 State Budget.

Palmesano is co-sponsoring legislation, Assembly bill A.4373, introduced by Assemblyman Mark Walczyk (R,C,I,Ref-Watertown). If adopted, it would reduce the cost of expanding broadband access by repealing this costly and burdensome right-of-way fee by making it more attractive to providers to invest in critical infrastructure.

“I’m sponsoring this bill because all New Yorkers, whether they live in a city or in a rural area, deserve reliable, high-speed internet access,” said Palmesano.

“This DOT fiber right of way fee is simply another tax, and is completely counter-productive to the governor’s stated goals of wanting to expand broadband access to workers, students, businesses and families throughout New York state. In fact, the governor’s tax just makes this critical access further unattainable by stifling the private-sector investment needed to build our needed, critically-important infrastructure. The onerous and damaging tax just furthers the digital divide for families across our state and it must be fully repealed now.

“Access to reliable internet service is essential, it’s not a luxury. This access continues to be a challenge for many families, particularly in our rural areas. This was true before COVID-19 arrived and was clearly evident after, as we’ve witnessed firsthand how critical it is for students to stay connected with their classes and school work and how important it is for employees to be able to stay productive remotely,” continued Palmesano.

Palmesano had one final message for the governor and his legislative colleagues on the DOT right of way tax:

“Either pass this bill or repeal this onerous tax in the budget. But either way it has to go, and go now,” added Palmesano.

“I urge Gov. Cuomo and my legislative colleagues to join us in supporting this common-sense legislation and immediately repeal this misplaced money-grab tax, which will just further hinder the quality of life and opportunity for all New Yorkers who want and deserve access to reliable internet service,” concluded Palmesano.