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New Bill Would Target Rural Broadband Rights of Way

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Gary Arlen)

A bipartisan bill has been introduced to speed broadband deployments by cutting right-of-way "red tape" in rural communities.

Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) have teamed up to introduce the Accelerating Rural Broadband Deployment Act, which they said will lead to easier and faster broadband installations.

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Specifically, the bill would:

1. "Make it easier for broadband companies to receive federal-right-of-way licenses allowing them to install broadband alongside existing infrastructure like federal highways.

2. "Ensure costs of federal-right-of-way licenses are fair market prices.

3. "Increase transparency into the federal right-of-way license awarding process. "

The bill drew praise from industry.

“We commend Sens. Daines and Kelly on introducing the Accelerating Rural Broadband Deployment Act, legislation that would accelerate broadband deployment by streamlining access to federal rights-of-way," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "To ensure that all Americans have access to the internet, federal policy should not only consider subsidizing network construction to reach unserved households, but should equally focus on removing barriers to broadband deployment – such as existing obstacles that prevent timely access to federal lands and buildings – that slow private expansion efforts. We look forward to working with the sponsors and other members on this bipartisan bill.”

Flip the initials to NTCA (for NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, and the sentiment is still the same. 

“High costs are a large enough barrier to deploying broadband service to rural areas without adding costly, time consuming processes for gaining access to federal lands," said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield. "On behalf of NTCA’s members, I applaud Senators Daines and Kelly for introducing the Accelerating Rural Broadband Deployment Act to ensure that providers can gain timely approval to access federal rights of way for deploying high-speed broadband networks. This legislation will make it easier to deploy essential broadband service to some of the hardest to reach areas of our country."

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“We all agree on the need to extend broadband infrastructure deeper into unserved parts of rural America, but too often our network innovators bump into red tape and outdated rules that can make construction slow, inefficient or nearly impossible," said Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom-The Broadband Association. "This is a common sense approach to increase high-speed connectivity from Senators Daines and Kelly. This plan expedites access to federal rights-of-way and streamlines the building process in service of a universal, bipartisan goal: bring the power and promise of broadband connectivity – the 21st century’s indispensable resource – to every corner of the country.”