Maryland Association of Counties Slams Bill to Speed Siting Decisions

UPDATE Inside Towers reported on a slate of six broadband-related bills that the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed onto the full House last week. The most comprehensive legislation would reauthorize the FCC’s auction authority and fully fund Rip & Replace.

The Maryland Association of Counties (MAC) takes issue with one of the bills, H.R. 3557, the “American Broadband Act of 2023.” It says the measure advances corporate interests above community needs. 

The MAC says in a blog post the bill, “represents an unprecedented and troubling usurpation of local authority to manage public Rights-of-Way and land use decisions in favor of cable, wireless, and telecommunications providers.” The MAC opposes the measure’s attempt to speed local siting decisions, saying it creates “artificially short timelines that are virtually impossible to meet.”

The bill states siting decisions must be considered “deemed granted” if not acted on within 60 days. The MAC notes the federal government has 270 days to act on these decisions.

Telecoms and ISPs have told Congress that short-handed local agencies delay broadband deployment projects, sometimes by several months or even years, before making siting decisions. The delays cost providers in increased permitting, equipment and labor expenses they said, Inside Towers reported.

“Maryland’s local governments have successfully partnered with both the wireline and wireless industries in local infrastructure deployment through decades of evolving technology,” states the MAC. “This legislation would unnecessarily upend those partnerships and jeopardize efforts to expand broadband to unserved areas across the state.”

The National Association of Counties, alongside the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, urged lawmakers to reject H.R. 3557 before the vote. The National Association of Counties planned to conduct a national membership call today to discuss the measure.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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