ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Senate Republicans are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to close the digital divide. From remote learning for school kids to telehealth appointments—if there is one thing the pandemic has highlighted, it’s that broadband access is more essential now than ever.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Senate Republicans said they want Hochul to eliminate the fiber optic tax. “In the 2019 state budget, they added this tax that said if you’re going to run a fiber optic line down a state highway, you’re going to be charged a tax and in addition to that tax, you’re also going to have to have a new survey done,” said Republican Senator, Dan Stec.

Stec said that—between the tax and land survey costs—people are being charged thousands of dollars. “If you’re that house that is looking to get the fiber optic company to run the line to your house, and you call them up and say, ‘Hey what will this cost?’ They will say ‘$7,000,'” he said. “Who is going to sign up for broadband internet as a resident if you have to shell out thousands of dollars to get connected?”

Stec said that while he is pleased that Hochul has proposed $1.5 billion dollars to continue pushing broadband, he said the fiber optic tax is a disincentive to expansion. Meanwhile, across the aisle, Democratic Sen. Michelle Hinchey has also been pushing for broadband service to be more accessible.

In a statement, Hinchey said, “Making it more affordable to build out broadband needs to be a top priority, which is why I’m proud to sponsor the legislation in the NYS Senate to repeal the fiber optic tax, and I appreciate my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, for cosponsoring it and elevating the call for its passage in this year’s budget. Broadband is not a partisan issue, and those of us who live in communities underserved or entirely unserved by broadband know that we need to act on this now to deliver real change to help close the digital divide across our state.”

Republicans would like to see the governor remove the fee in the 30-day amendment to the executive budget.