ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner announced Monday their bill to help bridge the digital divide in rural and underserved areas was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul. The legislation will make it easier and more affordable for broadband providers to install their services on utility poles by mandating a fair distribution of installation costs across providers and streamlining the contract process for broadband expansion projects.

When broadband providers attempt to install their services on utility poles, they are often hit with unrelated expenses, such as replacing entire poles, that discourage them altogether from expanding to rural communities. These can increase project costs several times higher than budgeted. The Hinchey/Woerner legislation clarifies that pole owners currently collecting a fee from ratepayers for utility pole replacements cannot shift the cost burden to broadband service providers and, instead, must divide the expenditure in a fair and equitable manner.

Assemblymember Carrie Woerner said, “This legislation will require utility pole owners to pay their fair share of construction costs rather than shifting the entire cost to broadband companies seeking to expedite the expansion of broadband into rural and underserved areas. This change will enable broadband providers to bring service to entire communities within a single project. Allowing these companies to maximize cost-efficiencies and accelerate the pace of expansion will move us closer to the goal of enabling all New Yorkers to access high-speed internet and the digital economy.”

In addition to reducing costs, the measure simplifies pole contracting for providers and municipalities by placing all utility poles in a given city, town, or village under one contract, thereby creating a more efficient system for providers to expand broadband service. Regulations previously required broadband providers to obtain contracts for each utility pole they intended to use.

“Every day in my district, I see firsthand how communities without 21st-century broadband infrastructure are being left behind. I’ve also seen what it looks like when a rural neighborhood finally gets connected to reliable broadband service and how that single act can change the course of a community’s future,” said Senator Michelle Hinchey. “This legislation removes two of the most common cost and efficiency barriers that broadband service providers face when trying to bring internet to rural homes and businesses — a commonsense solution that will expand broadband access in communities that need it the most.”

Senator Hinchey believes access to the internet is a fundamental necessity, and says she won’t stop fighting until every home and business in New York State is fully connected.