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Broadband Bills Continue to Rain Down From Hill

The dueling broadband bill introductions from Democrats and Republicans this week continued Friday with more than a half-dozen offerings from both sides.

On the Democrats' side, Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) introduced H.R. 4847, the Broadband Deployment Streamlining Act, which aims to speed deployment by "reforming and improving" the application process for building out broadband using public lands. President Donald Trump last week had signed two executive orders to do just that.

The Democratic bill:

 1) "Requires procedures to be established for tracking applications, monitoring the time between receipt and final decision, and reasons for denial;

 2) "Bases application fees that applicants pay to the designated federal agency on the actual costs of review and maintenance of that application;

3) "Requires that executive agencies act on siting requests with 270 days; and

 4) "Preserves agency obligations to follow applicable environmental laws."

The bill would also mandate a Government Accountability Office report on the National Broadband Map, a government effort to identify where broadband is accessible and where it isn't.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and David McKinley (R-W. Va.) offered up their second broadband bill of the week, the Climb Once Act, which would, they said, ensure that no federal laws get in the way of local "climb once" policies that "allow for a list of pre-approved contractors that pole owners agree on to handle make-ready work, eliminating the need for multiple contractors to perform the work."

The pair introduced a "Dig Once" bill Jan. 17.

Not to be outdone, Republicans followed with more of their promised broadband bill blitz.

Communications Subcommittee chair Marsha Blackburn unveiled five bills Friday, the third tranche of its series of bills, dealing mostly with historic preservation and environmental reviews.

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H.R. 4832, “Restoring Economic Strength and Telecommunications Operations by Releasing Expected Dollars (RESTORED) Act,”  would allow companies eligible for Universal Service Fund high-cost money to get up to a 7-month advance on the funds in disaster areas.

H.R. 4845, “Connecting Communities Post Disasters Act,” would give facilities in disaster areas a five-year exemption from environmental and historic reviews to allow them to replace/improve their facilities.

H.R. 4842, “The Streamlining Permitting to Enable Efficient Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure,” would exempt environmental and historic preservation reviews on federal property if another facility on the same property has already been granted one; would exempt other such reviews in some other circumstances.

Related: FCC Takes 'Historic' Pole Position

H.R. 4847, “Broadband Deployment Streamlining Act,” would "direct the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to issue regulations within one year to streamline applications processes to locate or modify communications facilities on public lands."; "amend Section 6409 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act to institute a firm shot clock by which applications must be granted or denied (an application is deemed granted if the agency fails to grant or deny within the allotted time)" and "would require a GAO report evaluating accuracy and reliability of data collected for the National Broadband Map" (mirroring the Democratic bill).

H.Res. 701 would express "the sense of the House" that environmental and historic reviews for broadband buildouts "should be narrowly tailored and proportional to lands that are physically impacted by the deployment of such facilities."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.