Two bills of interest to towercos and telecoms passed the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee yesterday. One bill the subcommittee passed and sent to the full committee was the “Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Business Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand Act’,’ which stands for “ACCESS BROADBAND Act.” It would establish an office at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to coordinate and track federal funding for broadband across all agencies. This office would streamline the process of applying for federal funding for projects that expand broadband access.
Co-author Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) said before the vote: “Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century,” noting that deployment costs are “prohibitive” in many areas, which is why federal funding is vital. He offered an amendment that ensures community entities such as libraries can receive funding. The changed language also ensures federal dollars do not go towards areas where broadband already exists. This ensures federal money is “finite,” and “not wasted,” he said.
The Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018 was the other measure considered. The legislation would require the FCC, in concert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to form a task force to evaluate the best ways to meet the broadband needs of precision agriculture. The telecommunications infrastructure industry would be part of the group. The task force would focus on identifying and measuring gaps in broadband coverage, and developing policy recommendations to promote rapid, expanded deployment of broadband in agricultural areas.
“The future of rural development in Iowa and elsewhere depends on access to the internet and broadband,” said co-author Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) before the vote. Farming is an integral component to the rural economy.” He stressed the need to focus on giving family farmers a way to continue that tradition. “Access to broadband is one way to do that.”
June 14, 2018