Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OR) unveiled a comprehensive package of 26 bills that aim to streamline broadband infrastructure deployment. The legislation would promote new and upgraded infrastructure deployments, incentivize competition and consumer choice, right-size regulations for building infrastructure across industries, and facilitate broadband deployment on federal land.
The cornerstone measures would streamline permitting for wireless providers to deploy new or co-located macro towers and small cells. The bills would preserve local authority over siting wireless infrastructure while also making it clear localities must respond to siting requests within set timeframes. They also set deadlines for localities to approve or deny siting requests.
The Wireless Infrastructure Association thanked the Republican members of the committee, and the leadership of Reps. Walden and Latta, for their focus on wireless broadband deployment. “As we have seen throughout the pandemic, connectivity has been essential, and we appreciate the committee’s commitment to bringing broadband to communities across America. We look forward to continuing to work with the members of the committee so that our nation can reap the benefits of 5G,” said WIA VP Government and Public Affairs Matt Mandel.
The Competitive Carriers Association also praised lawmakers for their efforts. “Promoting new infrastructure deployment by reducing unnecessary barriers, clarifying federal, state, and local zoning authorities, and fostering competition will result in a win-win-win for consumers, industry, and the economy,” said CCA President/CEO Steve Berry. “At a time when consumers are relying on mobile broadband services more than ever before, it is a real positive that policymakers are focused on ensuring broadband can be deployed in unserved and underserved areas.”
NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association said: “After the business case can be made to support broadband providers serving in rural areas, freeing up resources by streamlining and simplifying time-consuming permitting processes can help promote the efficient deployment of broadband networks. This is critical as NTCA members work tirelessly to connect as many rural Americans as possible and bridge the digital divide. NTCA is pleased that Congress is taking a renewed look at streamlining the process of broadband deployment, specifically on public lands and in existing rights-of-way. NTCA looks forward to future conversations as these bills move forward.”
Here’s what the 26 bills would do:
Promote New Infrastructure Deployment
- The Winning the International Race for Economic Leadership and Expanding Service to Support Leadership (WIRELESS Leadership) Act, led by Rep. Latta (R-OH), would streamline permitting processes for wireless providers by preserving state and local zoning authority subject to reasonable limitations, like shot clocks and cost-based fees, to ensure providers receive an answer on their applications in a reasonable amount of time;
- The Barriers and Regulatory Obstacles Avoids Deployment of Broadband Access and Needs Deregulatory Leadership (BROADBAND Leadership) Act, led by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), streamlines permitting processes for telecommunications service providers by preserving state and local zoning authority subject to reasonable limitations, like shot clocks and cost-based fees, to ensure providers receive an answer on their application in a reasonable amount of time;
- The Cable Access for Broadband and Local Economic Leadership (CABLE Leadership) Act, led by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), would place shot clocks on a cable franchising authority to act on a request for a new franchise to speed up deployment;
- The Communities Overregulating Networks Need Economic Competition Today (CONNECT) Act, also led by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), would promote competition by limiting government-run broadband networks throughout the country;
Incentivize Competition and Consumer Choice by Promoting Collocation and Modifications to Existing Infrastructure
- The Streamlining Permitting to Enable Efficient Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure (SPEED) Act (H.R. 6488), led by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), would reduce federal red tape by exempting broadband facilities from environmental and historic preservation reviews on federal property where a communications facility has already been approved;
- The Wireless Broadband Competition and Efficient Deployment Act, led by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), would remove the requirement to prepare an environmental or historic preservation review for collocations of wireless facilities;
- The Wireless Resiliency and Flexible Investment Act, led by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), would expand eligible facilities requests to include facilities that would improve the resiliency of the communications network and provide a direct benefit to public safety, such as backup power, hardening the tower or structure, or providing more reliable connection capabilities;
- The Consumer Access to Broadband for Local Economies and Competition Act (CABLE Competition Act), led by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), would streamline the transfer of a franchise from a franchise authority to a cable operator;
- The Cable Transparency Act, led by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would clarify and make more transparent the terms for a cable franchise;
- The Protecting Critical Infrastructure Act, led by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), would establish a penalty of a 2-year prison term for anyone who willfully or maliciously destroys a communications facility;
- Remove Unnecessary or Duplicative Barriers from Environmental and Historical Reviews
- The Reducing Antiquated Permitting for Infrastructure Deployment (RAPID) Act, led by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), would provide clarity and certainty for providers to comply with historical regulations and speed up the deployment of wireless infrastructure;
- The Brownfields Broadband Deployment Act, led by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), would ensure the deployment of a broadband project entirely within a brownfields site is a category of activities to be excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental or historic preservation review;
- The Coastal Broadband Deployment Act, led by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), would accelerate the deployment of broadband projects entirely within a floodplain;
- The Timely Replacement Under Secure and Trusted for Early and Dependable Broadband Networks Act (TRUSTED Broadband Networks Act), led by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), would accelerate the replacement of projects subject to reimbursement under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019;
- The Proportional Reviews for Broadband Deployment Act, led by Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), would speed up the deployment of eligible facilities requests, which modify an existing wireless tower or base station that do not substantially change the physical dimensions of the tower or base station that involves the collocation, removal, or replacement of transmission equipment;
- The Wildfire Wireless Resiliency Act, led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), would speed up the deployment of projects to replace or improve communications facilities after a wildfire;
- Allow Broadband Deployment on Federal Lands
- The Standard Fees to Expedite Evaluation and Streamlining Act (Standard FEES Act), led by Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), would establish a common fee for processing applications to deploy communications facilities on federal property;
- The Broadband Deployment Streamlining Act, led by Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), would streamline the process to place or modify communications facilities on land under the control of the Department of Interior;
- The Enhancing Administrative Reviews for Broadband Deployment Act, led by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), would create a study on barriers within the bureaucracy to reviewing communications use authorization requests to deploy on federal land;
- The Expediting Federal Broadband Deployment Reviews Act, led by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), would direct NTIA to lead an interagency strike force to help prioritize reviews for communications use authorization requests to deploy on federal land;
- The Federal Broadband Deployment in Unserved Areas Act, led by Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), would allow the Department of Interior to view FCC broadband mapping data to show federal property that can support communications facilities in unserved areas;
- The Deploying Infrastructure with Greater Internet Transactions And Legacy Applications (DIGITAL Applications) Act, led by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), would establish an online portal to accept, process, and dispose of the common form application to deploy a communications facility on federal property;
- The Facilitating the Deployment of Infrastructure with Greater Internet Transactions And Legacy Applications (Facilitating DIGITAL Applications) Act, led by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), would require the NTIA to update Congress on whether the Departments of Interior and Agriculture have established an online portal for the acceptance, processing, and disposal of the common form application to deploy a communications facility on federal property;
- The Federal Broadband Deployment Tracking Act, led by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), would require NTIA to submit a plan to Congress on tracking the acceptance, processing, and disposal of requests for communications use authorizations on federal property;
- The Connecting Communities Post Disasters Act, led by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), would accelerate replacing and improving communications facilities in Presidentially-declared disaster areas;
- The Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act of 2019, led by Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), would allow Federal departments to delegate Federal environmental compliance for broadband projects to states and Indian tribes.
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