Congress Attempts to Streamline Broadband Permit Process

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A bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives recently that would try to streamline the process of obtaining permits for new broadband Internet infrastructure for service providers.

H.R.4824: Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act of 2018 was introduced by Rep. John Curtis (R-UT 3) on January 18, 2018 and contains three main efforts to remove some red tape without cutting corners:

  1. Deferring to the states
  2. Avoiding redundant permits
  3. Consolidating the approval process

1) Deferring to the states

Section 4 of the bill describes a process by which the federal government could enter into voluntary agreements with any state government to give the state jurisdiction and responsibility for any permits that are currently issued by specific federal agencies.

Basically, if a state wants to assume responsibility for enforcing the federal agency's rules, they can do it. This provision appears to help reduce the amount of officials involved and keep decision-making closer for each project closer to the site of the project itself.

2) Avoiding Redundancy

Section 5 of the bill attempts to reduce the amount of redundant permits required for a project by excluding "existing operational rights-of-way" (e.g., roads, bridges, footpaths, etc.  needed to get to the broadband project site) from permitting requirements.

This section assumes that it would be redundant to obtain permits in these scenarios because it doesn't make sense to obtain a permit where something already exists.

3) Consolidating Approval

The final section of the bill outlines how federal agencies must collaborate and designate a "lead agency" to speak for all of them in situations where permits from multiple agencies would be required. 

If you've ever built a house, you've likely had to get separate permits for water, electricity, building, waste removal, and more. This would make it so the managers of broadband infrastructure projects could go to one federal agency to get any permit required to approve the project.

Is it Good for America?

Based on the contents of the bill, America's Internet concludes that the spirit of this bill is in the best interest of the American people because it attempts to make our government's role in expanding broadband less burdensome for those looking to expand our infrastructure without sacrificing the public benefit that existing federal protections are meant to afford us.