GOP Leaders Call for Streamlined Permitting for Broadband Buildout

Cable crew laying fiber
Congressional Republicans want to streamline the permitting process for federally subsidized broadband buildouts. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A pair of Congressional Republican leaders has asked the Biden administration's chief telecom policy adviser to streamline the permitting process for some of the broadband buildouts being subsidized with billions of taxpayer dollars.

That request came in a letter to Alan Davidson, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, from House Energy & Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Senate Commerce ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

The NTIA is overseeing the allocation of most of the $65 billion in broadband subsidy money through the Biden-led infrastructure act, most of that outlay going to states to fund their broadband projects.

Also: White House Isssues State Guide to Broadband Billions

Rogers and McMorris were particularly focused on the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which comprises more than $42 billion to states.

“With inflation already raising costs, we cannot afford to waste time and resources on needless bureaucracy when we should be building networks,” they wrote. “Without action, we worry that deployments will take longer and be more expensive, leaving more Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide.”  

They want the states to work with local governments to reduce buildout barriers by reducing red tape, promoting the use of existing infrastructure — rather than, say, on new municipal overbuilds — and promoting dig-once policies and “cost-effective” access to poles, conduits, easements and rights of way.

But they want it to go beyond encouragement. They said states should be required to adopt such streamlining policies as a condition of getting their share of the billions in subsidies, and have a high bar when justifying when streamlining is not appropriate. ▪️

John Eggerton

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.