Washington, DCToday, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), released the following statement regarding two of his bills included in a comprehensive package of 26 bills that aim to streamline the deployment of broadband infrastructure. These bills, spearheaded by Republican members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, 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 lands.

“This package, including both of my bills, is a major win for Utah and both urban and rural communities across the country. Broadband access is crucial to education and employment opportunities – and as we’ve seen during the pandemic, is critical to delivering healthcare to those in rural America. Too often duplicative regulations and inefficient practices at federal agencies slows broadband deployment down; the proposals in this package will close the digital gap, bringing all Americans access to the internet.

Specifically, my bills will remove barriers that hinder broadband deployment on Federal lands and delay internet access for neighboring communities. The Federal Broadband Deployment in Unserved Areas Act requires that the FCC share their geospatial data on broadband availability with USDA and DOI and requires that the three work together to identify unserved areas with broadband capability. The Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act will speed up permitting for projects on Federal land by allowing States and Tribes to take on the responsibility of environmental review. Both bills will increase the efficiency of Federal broadband permitting and get internet to Americans sooner.”

Background

Federal Broadband Deployment in Unserved Areas Act – 

  • Requires the FCC to share all mapping data collected under Title VIII of the Communications Act with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. 
  • This will integrate FCC broadband availability data with DOI and USDA data showing Federal property that can support communications facilities. 
  • This will allow broadband providers to locate broadband-capable structures on Federal lands and prioritize deployment to unserved areas.
  • Directs FCC, DOI, and USDA to establish a working group to facilitate the sharing of mapping data. 
  • Requires a report to Congress on:
    • Potential barriers to data sharing
    • The effectiveness of a user’s ability to locate Federal property that can support communications facilities in unserved areas
    • An assessment of whether DOI and USDA prioritized the review of applications for a communications use authorization for proposed deployments in unserved areas. 

Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act – 

  • Allows States and Tribal governments to opt-in to take on responsibility of the environmental review for broadband permitting on Federal lands
  • Designates a lead agency in the permitting process for projects that cross land management agencies, streamlining the permitting process by creating a single point of contact in the executive branch
  • Supporters include: The Navajo Nation, Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, Utah Education and Telehealth Network, Emery Telecom, The National Grange, Utah Rural Telecom, Grand County Council, and the American Library Association.
  • A version of the Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act passed the House by voice vote in the 115th Congress.

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