House Subcommittee Plans Vote on Broadband Boosters

The House Communications Subcommittee has scheduled a vote Dec. 2 on a legislative package and Federal Spectrum Incentive Act to boost broadband deployment.

The package  would mandate a "dig once" policy and combine that provision, proposed in a separate bill, with others offered up last month in a host of broadband-boosting draft bills the subcommittee considered at a hearing in late October.

The FCC under chairman Tom Wheeler has taken steps to streamlining tower citing and permitting and put shot clocks on those decisions, but the committee clearly sees more it can do to help speed that plow.

The package is the handiwork of full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Subcommittee chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and combines six proposals the committee had looked at in that October hearing. They would:

1. Require any federal highway program where the FCC, National Telecommunications Association and DOT agree there will be a need for broadband capacity in the next 15 years to install broadband conduit at the same time ("dig once");

2. Require common forms, contracts and fee schedules;

3. Expanding access to pole attachments--the FCC has already done its part last week by lowering the telecom attachment rate that broadband ISPs are subject to under its Title II reclassification.

4. Create an inventory of federal broadband assets and hold the government accountable for speedy permitting and facilities location.

5, Streamlining permitting processes; and

6. Streamlining historical and environmental impact evaluations.

The Federal Spectrum Incentive Act (HR 1641) would incentivize government agencies to free up spectrum by giving them a cut of the auction revenues from any freed-up spectrum.

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.