Bills to Ease Wireless Infrastructure Siting Introduced in Congress

Lawmakers introduced two bills in Congress to smooth the path for broadband deployment and 5G wireless services.

Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Tuesday introduced a bill to cut red tape for companies, states and local governments who want to install broadband infrastructure on federal land. The Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act supports the “dig once” concept; it would ensure states simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects that involve building a new highway or adding an additional lane or shoulder.

The bill also establishes a “standard fee” to streamline leasing agreements when wireless broadband infrastructure is built, installed and maintained on federal land. The measure instructs agencies that possess federal land or infrastructure to grant a real property interest to applicants, including states, wireless carriers or other organizations seeking to install communications facilities.   

CTIA SVP Government Affairs Kelly Cole stated the measure “would provide a common sense and efficient approach to building out enhanced broadband networks and wireless connectivity for American consumers.”

In the House, Reps. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) introduced a companion to the “Advancing Innovation and Reinvigorating Widespread Access to Viable Electromagnetic Spectrum (AIRWAVES) Act. The proposal would identify spectrum bands for unlicensed use and free up mid-band spectrum. A rural set-aside is also included. That directs the FCC to devote 10 percent of a spectrum auction’s proceeds to extend wireless broadband to unserved and underserved populations.

Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Peter Welch (D-VT), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) also co-sponsored the House bill. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the Senate version (S. 1682) last summer, Inside Towers reported.

“This legislation provides a vital long-term plan to free up valuable licensed spectrum as demand for wireless data and content continues to surge,” said CTIA’s Cole. “An open spectrum pipeline is critical to meet consumers’ need for new and innovative services and maintain America’s lead in the global race to 5G.”

The Competitive Carriers Association on Wednesday commended lawmakers for including the 24 and 47 GHz bands in the bidding process and reserving dedicated funding to expand mobile broadband in rural areas. CCA President/CEO Steven Berry said making additional spectrum available for commercial use will benefit the economy, industry, and consumers, and help achieve the FCC’s goal of closing the digital divide. “Particularly as AT&T and Verizon have dominated secondary market transactions for millimeter wave spectrum, a swift auction of these bands will give all carriers a meaningful opportunity to access critical spectrum resources.”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly called the measure “critical spectrum legislation” that demonstrates Congress supports firm spectrum deadlines and auctions for key bands. To make these deadlines a reality, the Commission needs a technical fix to statutory requirements regarding holding upfront auction payments.”

February 8, 2018   

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