New Bill Would Fund Broadband Permitting Expertise

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas)
Bill sponsor Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) (Image credit: U.S. House)

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) has introduced a bill, the Broadband Incentives for Communities Act, that would create a grant program under the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to fund training and hiring permitting employees.

The point is to speed the deployment of the broadband buildouts that the Biden administration is spending billions to achieve.

“In order to close the digital divide across the country, we need to support communities as they upgrade and increase broadband capabilities," Fletcher said of the bill. "One way that Congress can do this is by providing cities and local governments with resources to process the expected increase in permitting applications necessary to build out broadband infrastructure. My bill, the Broadband Incentives for Communities Act, creates a grant program that will provide this vital support, ensuring communities have the resources necessary to modernize their infrastructure.”

The bill is particularly concerned with wireless broadband. ”In order to upgrade and expand broadband infrastructure, local governments work with private wireless companies to build out the necessary technology across communities,” Fletcher‘s office said. “This requires these companies to submit zoning and permitting applications, however, many wireless technology applications often do not fit the traditional governmental review process, and local governments may lack the personnel, training and technical resources to efficiently permit these deployments.“

The legislation also requires stakeholders, under NTIA's auspices, to seek solutions to the ”challenges“ of deploying broadband efficiently in local communities.

”All Americans, no matter where they live, work or travel, must have access to robust mobile broadband services in today’s digital world, and sound infrastructure policies are key to ensuring all communities can connect,” said Competitive Carriers Association president Steven K. Berry. “I thank Rep. Fletcher for her leadership on this issue; infrastructure is the backbone of wireless networks and this legislation can help bring us one step closer to closing the digital divide.”

Added INCOMPAS president Chip Pickering: “Deploying faster speed broadband networks to families and small businesses is a national priority that requires local expertise. Done right, historic broadband infrastructure funding has the potential to transform local communities by attracting new jobs, investment and more competition to every city, small town and rural area.

“The ‘Broadband Incentives for Communities Act’ introduced by Representative Lizzie Fletcher and supported by leading mayors, is a smart and future focused way to ensure federal broadband funding is maximized and invested wisely and quickly to help speed the deployment of new fiber and 5G networks that will grow education and economic opportunities faster and better,“ Pickering added. 

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.