Bill Introduced in US House to Streamline Rural Broadband Projects

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Legislation has been introduced in Congress to streamline the permitting process for rural broadband infrastructure projects

The Facilitating Optimal and Rapid Expansion and Siting of Telecommunications (FOREST) Act, which was written by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), is intended to cut down on bureaucratic red tape to improve broadband access in rural America.

“Regulations and red tape are making it harder for us to deploy broadband in rural America,” said Johnson. “My bill will reduce unnecessary red tape so we can get more and better service across our country.”

“Permitting approval on federal lands is one of the biggest obstacles for broadband deployment. It is a major roadblock for achieving universal connectivity and could compromise the success of federal and state broadband funding programs like BEAD and ReConnect. We appreciate Representative Johnson’s leadership on this bill to ensure broadband providers can complete projects on USFS lands efficiently and responsibly. It serves as an important step toward closing the digital divide for many communities in South Dakota and across the country,” said Brandon Heiner, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for USTelecom.

The lengthy permitting process on federal lands has prevented the federal government from improving broadband access, even though billions of dollars are available to improve broadband deployment. The FOREST Act expedites broadband projects in places where the government has already conducted the appropriate environmental and historical preservation reviews.

Specifically, the FOREST Act:

Grants exemptions from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Historical Preservation Act (NHPA) for a communications facility or communications use authorization on National Forest System lands if it is an upgrade or addition to existing infrastructure, or if the United States Forest Service has already conducted the appropriate environmental and historical preservation reviews.
Allows USFS to waive the consultation requirements under NEPA and NHPA for a communications use authorization on previously analyzed areas of National Forest System lands.
Streamlines the NEPA permitting process by allowing broadband infrastructure to be built on land that has already gone through the appropriate reviews as it pertains to the National Forest System.

 

The FOREST Act is cosponsored by Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) and supported by USTelecom and NCTA – The Internet and Television Association.

Read the full bill text here.

 

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