Legislation Introduced to Expand Broadband Infrastructure

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand broadband infrastructure. The Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act would increase broadband deployment by cutting red tape for companies, states, and local governments who want to install broadband infrastructure on federal land and promotes the simultaneous installation of underground broadband conduit during federal transportation projects.

“Access to high-speed internet is essential to compete in today’s global economy,” Klobuchar said. “Yet as I travel around Minnesota and our country, I hear from community leaders, residents, and businesses who are in urgent need of reliable broadband. This critical bipartisan legislation would help improve the deployment of broadband infrastructure so that more Americans have access to high-speed internet no matter where they live.”

Supporting Broadband-dependent Farming Applications
"Not only does access to broadband connect rural Americans and tribal communities to the rest of the world, but there are many broadband-dependent farming applications that will enable Montana farmers to be more efficient and equip them to feed our growing population,” Daines stated. "Making effective use of existing resources and streamlining these processes are essential to continue broadband deployment in rural America. This bill would make it easier for providers to lay the groundwork for broadband, taking an important step toward connecting our unserved communities."

“Access to broadband is access to the modern economy,” Gardner said. “This bill would make federal construction projects more efficient by encouraging simultaneous construction of transportation and broadband infrastructure. In addition, the bill would build on my efforts to encourage faster deployment of broadband infrastructure on federal lands. Continued rural economic development depends on expanded broadband internet access, and I’m proud to support this effort to ensure that expansion happens."

“This bipartisan bill will strengthen America’s capacity to meet the demands of consumers across the country for better and more complete wireless coverage,” said Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein, who announced his support for the legislation at yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing. “America’s economic and technological growth depends on reliable access to mobile data, which means greater deployment of cutting-edge wireless facilities. These are difficult issues, but the legislation offers practical ways forward that reduce redundancies when deploying the backbone of our wireless world, whether along our rights of way or bringing service to federal lands and rural communities.”

“Dig Once” Essential to Expanding Broadband Infrastructure
The Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act would ensure states simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects that involve constructing a new highway or adding an additional lane or shoulder — known as “dig once.” The bill establishes a standard fee to streamline leasing agreements involving the installation, construction and maintenance of a communications facility by instructing agencies in possession of federal government property or infrastructure to grant a real property interest to applicants, which may include states, wireless carriers, or other organizations seeking to install communications facilities.

“Dig once” is essential to expanding our broadband infrastructure because the Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90% of the cost of deploying broadband consists of digging up and replacing the road. This means that it is ten times more expensive to install broadband conduit alone instead of installing it along with road repairs. Also, broadband conduit installations currently add to the number of road construction projects, creating more traffic congestion. Further, streamlining the siting process for wireless infrastructure on federal land will make deployment in underserved areas easier.

Last week, Klobuchar invited a Minnesotan who is a leader in the effort to improve broadband adoption in the state to participate in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Senate Democratic and Outreach Committee on issues that affect rural America. Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy for the Blandin Foundation, spoke about the importance of increasing broadband adoption in rural communities and discussed her work to strengthen residential and business connections to broadband across Minnesota.

Klobuchar is a leader in Congress on promoting widespread broadband access and increasing America’s competitiveness in the global economy. Klobuchar previously authored the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act to require that states simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects, including building a new highway or adding a new shoulder to an existing highway. The president issued an executive order in 2012 to implement provisions to make it easier to build broadband infrastructure, which were derived from Klobuchar’s legislation.

As a member of the Senate Commerce and Agriculture Committees and a long-time advocate of expanding broadband, Klobuchar wrote a letter in June to the Broadband Opportunity Council offering ways the federal government can increase access to reliable broadband. The recommendations she provided on how to improve high-speed broadband access for all Americans were included in a recent report from the Council, including furthering “dig once” policies. She also led a bipartisan letter with Senator John Thune (R-SD) and 59 other senators calling on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize rules intended to ensure that Americans in rural areas have access to affordable broadband services. She has introduced the Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act with Senator Fischer (R-NE) to increase wireless broadband access in rural communities by providing incentives for wireless carriers to lease unused spectrum to rural or smaller carriers.


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