Rural Broadband Legislation Passes Important Hurdle with Tipton Support
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a House Committee on Natural Resources markup, Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03) voted to advance legislation that would streamline broadband projects to help bring high-speed broadband to rural communities. The Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act of 2018 (H.R. 4824) passed out of the committee by a large majority. Tipton is a cosponsor of the legislation.
“High speed internet is not a luxury. It is a necessity,” said Tipton. “Unfortunately, 40 percent of rural Americans still do not have access to broadband internet, which in large part, is due to redundant permitting laws and regulations that hold up many broadband projects that must pass through federal lands. This impact is seen throughout the 3rd District. The Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act would help make it easier to get these critical broadband projects off the ground, helping to close the digital divide we see between towns in Colorado’s metro and rural areas.”
Currently, telecommunications providers that wish to install broadband infrastructure on existing rights-of-way (ROW) on federal lands are required to get approval from multiple agencies at the federal and state levels. This process can include extensive environmental review, including compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), even if the ROW already underwent NEPA analysis. These duplicative and burdensome reviews can cause delays in permit processing and discourage providers from pursuing broadband projects, especially in rural areas.
H.R. 4824 would remedy this problem and help increase broadband access across the rural communities by:
- Streamlining broadband permitting by delegating federal environmental compliance to states that have opted into an agreement with the federal government to process broadband permits within existing operational ROWs;
- Requiring the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to designate projects within existing ROW as categorical exclusions under NEPA.
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