Mayors Urge Congress to Ignore Bill to Speed Broadband Deployment

The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) is pressing Congress to ignore the American Broadband Deployment Act of 2023. The group says the measure is trying to cut red tape for broadband permitting at the expense of local governments’ control over their areas. The USCM passed a resolution opposing H.R. 3557 at a meeting this past weekend.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA). It passed out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee in May 2023 on a party-line vote of 27-23.

At the time, Carter called the measure “an important step in unleashing innovation and turbocharging public and private investment.” He stated: “These changes will allow internet providers to focus their time and energy on what matters most: connecting all Americans.” 

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said: “In order to ensure [broadband] access, especially in rural areas, we need to cut red tape and streamline the burdensome permitting processes at the federal, state, and local level.” She praised Carter’s leadership “to help close the digital divide and lift permitting burdens so we deploy broadband faster, with less government waste, and more efficiently.”

Proponents say the bill achieves these goals by:

  • Streamlining the process for requesting approvals to deploy new broadband infrastructure;
  • Requiring that application fees to review permitting applications are based on actual and direct costs, and that providers have a clear timeline for a response;
  • Simplifying the process for requesting approval to upgrade existing infrastructure; and,
  • Ensuring that environmental and historic preservation reviews for broadband deployments are proportional to the level of deployment taking place.

Opponents like the USCM, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties, say the bill would enact new restrictions on a variety of state and local land use and zoning for both wireless and wireline deployment and impose limits on the ability for counties to negotiate and renew cable franchise agreements.

Of concern for opponents are provisions they say call for the:

  • Preemption of state and local zoning authority over the placement of wireless technologies, including towers, equipment, and small cells;
  • Elimination of state and local government authority to manage public rights-of-way by collecting fair market compensation for their use and management, and limiting ROW fees to ”actual, objectively reasonable costs”;
  • Enactment of shot clock rules and “deemed granted” provisions which place timelines for the review and approval of telecommunications projects;
  • Prohibition of state and local governments from revoking cable franchises. 

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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