State tax stops local internet project

Updated: Jul. 2, 2020 at 6:16 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, N.Y. (WWNY) - A state tax imposed on companies providing internet access to some of the most rural parts of northern New York has stopped at least one project in its tracks.

Much of the north country does not have access to high speed broadband internet, mostly because it is very expensive to run cables in areas where few people live.

Louisville, near Massena, has a project to install a broadband internet line along Route 37. But a law passed a year ago requires companies to pay the state a tax, any time the internet line they’re installing touches a state right-of-way like 37.

The tax makes the project unaffordable, even with a grant Louisville got.

That’s a huge disappointment to people like Shaun Prentice, owner of St. Lawrence Recreation on Route 37.

“For business purposes everything is conducted online today. … It’s an easy one, so to speak, but with these taxes it just kills it,” Prentice said.

“It’s kind of surprising,” said Larry Legault, Louisville town supervisor. “Here the state is recommending, or they’re promoting, broadband in rural areas and that’s what we we’re trying to do.”

Internet providers say the tax dashes hopes for many projects.

State assemblyman Mark Walczyk and state senator Patty Ritchie vow to fight the tax, which they say directly contradicts Governor Cuomo’s “Broadband for All” campaign.

“I can’t think of any good, common-sense reason why this would have been done, other than a blatant money-grab by New York State,” Walczyk said.

The tax is costing the Development Authority of The North Country, which provides broadband to much of northern New York, $1.6 million a year. Officials there argue that’s money which could be used to extend broadband to more households and businesses.

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