Tipton Votes to Streamline Rural Broadband Projects
WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03) voted to pass legislation that would streamline projects to bring high-speed broadband to underserved rural communities. The Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act of 2018 (H.R. 4824), of which Tipton is a cosponsor, passed out of the House with bipartisan support.
“Many communities in Colorado’s Third District and across the U.S. still do not have access to reliable broadband, and oftentimes government bureaucracy and duplicative permitting requirements are the hold-up,” said Tipton. “Communities without access to reliable internet are left behind in today’s technology-driven economy and learning environment. The Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act will help get critical broadband projects underway, further closing the digital divide between Colorado’s rural and metro 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 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 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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