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What They Are Saying: E&C Republican Broadband Bills Will Help Close Digital Divide


Washington, DC – Energy and Commerce Republicans last week released 26 bills to help accelerate broadband deployment and close the digital divide. Here’s what members and stakeholders are saying about this important effort.

Ajit Pai, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

“Applaud @HouseCommerce‘s focus on promoting new and upgraded infrastructure deployment, incentivizing competition and consumer choice, reforming infrastructure regulations across industries, and facilitating broadband deployment on federal lands!” said Chairman Pai.

Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

“The Republican Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have put together a smart and comprehensive set of infrastructure reforms,” said Carr, who has led the Commission’s infrastructure modernization initiatives. Thoughtful reforms would bring families across the digital divide and further extend America’s leadership in 5G by helping to accelerate the build out of high-speed Internet services. Their ideas, including legislation that would tackle the permitting delays that persist for Internet builds on federal lands, would make an immediate difference for rural communities across the country. I look forward to working with the congressional leaders on Energy and Commerce on this important set of infrastructure reforms.”

Mike O’Reilly, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

“Many thanks to @HouseCommerce Republicans for leading comprehensive package of bills to speed broadband infrastructure deployment across the country and advance 5G wireless services. The preemptive nature of many bills is absolutely necessary!” said Commissioner O’Reilly.

Technology Engagement Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

“We applaud @HouseCommerce for their leadership on this critical issue. We will continue to work with U.S. legislators to ensure America’s communications infrastructure provides equal opportunity for all.”

Jonathan Spalter, President and CEO, USTelecom

“Representatives Walden, Latta and members of the Energy and Commerce committee are right to focus on the role outdated regulations, slow approvals and rights-of-way disputes play in holding back broadband construction and deployment. Too often our network innovators bump into red tape and rules that make these essential infrastructure projects slower, more expensive or nearly impossible. That doesn’t help consumers, especially those in corners of the country that need – and deserve – 21st century connectivity,” said Spalter.

Matt Mandel, Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA)

“WIA thanks the Republican members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and the leadership of Reps. Walden and Latta, for their focus on wireless broadband deployment. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, connectivity has been essential, and we appreciate the committee’s commitment to bringing broadband to communities across America. We look forward to continuing to work with the members of the committee so that our nation can reap the benefits of 5G,” Mandel said.

Kelly Cole, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, CTIA

“We thank the House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, under the leadership of Reps. Walden and Latta, for their work to introduce legislation that will help streamline infrastructure deployment and close the digital divide. COVID-19 puts a spotlight on the need to accelerate innovation, especially in remote learning, and these bills recognize that leading the world in wireless will be essential to our economic recovery,” said Cole.

NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association

“After the business case can be made to support broadband providers serving in rural areas, freeing up resources by streamlining and simplifying time-consuming permitting processes can help promote the efficient deployment of broadband networks. This is critical as NTCA members work tirelessly to connect as many rural Americans as possible and bridge the digital divide,” NTCA said. NTCA is pleased that Congress is taking a renewed look at streamlining the process of broadband deployment, specifically on public lands and in existing rights-of-way. NTCA looks forward to further conversations as these bills move forward.”

Steven K. Berry, President and CEO, CCA

“I welcome further efforts from Congress to close the digital divide and expand wireless broadband services, and thank Republican Leaders Walden and Latta for their work to produce this comprehensive legislative package. Promoting new infrastructure deployment by reducing unnecessary barriers, clarifying federal, state, and local zoning authorities, and fostering competition will result in a win-win-win for consumers, industry, and the economy. At a time when consumers are relying on mobile broadband services more than ever before, it is a real positive that policymakers are focused on ensuring broadband can be deployed in unserved and underserved areas. I thank the Members for their work on these important issues, and CCA stands ready to work with Congress to keep moving forward,” said Berry.

Tony Russo, Vice President, Federal Government Relations, T-Mobile

“Thankful for the great work done by Ranking Members @repgregwalden and @boblatta and team for assembling this comprehensive reform package that will go a long way toward accelerating deployment of advanced wireless services in the U.S. and closing the digital divide,” said Russo.

Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH)
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the Internet is more than just a helpful tool – it’s a lifeline to help Americans access health care, earn a living, receive an education, and more. All Americans, whether living in rural or urban communities, should have the opportunity to reap the benefits of staying connected, particularly when considering the economic advantage of reliable connectivity. We must do all that we can to expand access to broadband, bridge the digital divide, and close the homework gap. We are proud to lead this effort to encourage U.S. leadership and ensure Americans across local communities can access these vital services, and we thank our colleagues for partnering with us on this important agenda,” said Reps. Walden and Latta.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), author of the RAPID Act

“The United States is the global leader in wireless technology, and maintaining that dominance is more important than ever as the next generation of wireless technologies continues to deliver innovative services for families across America,” said Whip Scalise. “Federal red tape associated with broadband deployment must be simplified to reflect modern technology while also protecting consumers. Accomplishing this will ensure that America will remain the world’s leader in technology innovation and job creation. The RAPID Act will provide clarity and certainty for providers who comply with environmental and historical regulations by modernizing rules at the FCC and accelerating the deployment of innovative 5G wireless technology.”

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), author of the Cable Transparency Act

“Oklahoma’s Second District is the only congressional district in the country where broadband is available to less than half the population and with the COVID-19 pandemic, access to broadband has become more important than ever,” said Rep. Mullin. “Right now, the cable franchising process is incredibly long and burdensome, which leads to higher costs and prevents more companies from entering the market. This legislation will streamline the process and make it more transparent, resulting in more investment and lower consumer costs. I am proud to introduce this bill as part of a package to improve access to broadband and help close the digital divide.”

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), author of the Barriers and Regulatory Obstacles Avoids Deployment of Broadband Access and Needs Deregulatory (BROADBAND) Leadership Act

“Bridging the digital divide requires the deployment of more broadband infrastructure. The bill I introduced today, the BROADBAND Leadership Act, will facilitate this goal by removing regulatory obstacles and requiring more timely decisions by government bodies in the process of deploying broadband. This approach will contribute to building out more broadband and connecting more Americans, including those in rural communities,” said Rep. Griffith.

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), author of the ­­­­­Broadband Deployment Streamlining Act

“I am proud to have my legislation, the Broadband Deployment Streamlining Act, which will reduce barriers to deploying broadband on Federal lands, included in this package. The pandemic has shown us how important internet access truly is. We must work to close the digital divide,” said Rep. Brooks.

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), author of the TRUSTED Broadband Networks Act

“With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it has become increasingly clear: We cannot trust China, and it’s more important now than ever before to have reliable telecommunications networks,” said Rep. Guthrie. “Huawei is a bad actor, but because it is subsidized by the Chinese government, their equipment is cheap. As we learn more about Huawei and the potential security threats this equipment can pose on our telecommunications networks, it’s crucial to help small and rural companies to replace it and any other equipment provided by bad actors. The TRUSTED Broadband Networks Act builds on our previous work and will make it easier for companies to obtain replace potentially corrupted hardware with new, trustworthy equipment. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on the committee to secure our nation’s telecommunications networks.”

Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), author of the CONNECT Act and the CABLE Leadership Act

“Now more than ever, access to reliable highspeed broadband is critical for thousands of Missourians to perform everyday tasks and even earn a living. I recognize the critical role the Internet has played in driving economic growth, which is why I introduced the Cable Access for Broadband and Local Economic Leadership (CABLE) Act and the Communities Overregulating Networks Need Economic Competition Today (CONNECT) Act. These bills will promote competition and expedite development to expand broadband access and close the digital divide that persists across the country,” said Rep. Long.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), author of the SPEED Act

“Upgrading telecommunications infrastructure, often by replacing one wireless tower or device with a smaller wireless device, should be a simple, straightforward process,” said Rep. Shimkus. “The SPEED Act will help keep broadband deployment projects located on federal property moving forward.”

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), author of the Wireless Broadband Competition and Efficient Deployment Act

“I introduced H.R. 7357, the Wireless Broadband Competition and Efficient Deployment Act, which would declare that collocations of wireless facilities are a category of activities to be excluded from the requirement to prepare an environmental or historic preservation review,” Bill Johnson said. “This would eliminate burdensome reviews that are often repetitive, and would avoid the unnecessary slowing down broadband expansion. Reliable broadband expansion and permitting efficiency must go hand in hand. While we strive to reach underserved communities, we must also streamline the process to get them served as quickly as possible. The economic growth and creation of opportunities for rural America and Eastern and Southeastern Ohio depend on it,” said Rep. Johnson.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), author of the Wireless Resiliency and Flexible Investment Act

“Rapid and efficient deployment of secure 5G technology is critical to our economic competitiveness as well as our national security. The Chinese Communist Party has poured endless resources into its own efforts to manufacture and deploy their networks around the world. If we‘re to make up ground against China and win this race to widespread 5G deployment, we must ensure the process is as streamlined, affordable, and efficient as possible. The Wireless Resiliency and Flexible Investment Act is one piece of this Committee’s broader effort to boost job creation, drastically close the digital divide, and maintain our position as the global leader in communications technology,” said Rep. Kinzinger.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), author of the CABLE Competition Act

“In 2020 Americans should not be limited by franchise restrictions when choosing broadband services. This legislation will increase competition by getting rid of regulations that are not keeping up with how consumers access cable and Internet services,” said Rep. Burgess. “The expansion of telehealth and increased number of Americans working from home during this pandemic has revealed the necessity of being able to maintain reliable Internet services. I hope my fellow members will join me in quickly passing this vital legislation.”

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), author of the Protecting Critical Infrastructure Act

“Our nation’s broadband infrastructure is critical, especially during this health care crisis. Americans in rural and urban areas alike are relying on communications infrastructure for telehealth visits, economic opportunity, online learning, and life-saving information about COVID-19 to keep them and their families safe. Protecting our infrastructure is paramount to further broadband build out and economic development in rural America,” said Rep. Bucshon.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), author of the Brownfields Broadband Deployment Act

“More than ever before, connectivity is central to our jobs, health care, learning, and daily lives,” said Rep. Walberg. “Along with my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee, I am pleased to introduce legislation to speed up the process of deploying broadband infrastructure. For too long rural communities have been left behind, and these proposals will make a real difference in increasing reliable high-speed Internet access in underserved communities.”

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), the Coastal Broadband Deployment Act

Several parts of my district lie within flood zones,” said Rep. Bilirakis.  “I want to be sure that all of my constituents have access to 21st Century Technologies, enabling them to harness the potential power that these capabilities offer. Being left behind is not an option.” 

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), author of the Proportional Reviews for Broadband Deployment Act

“This bill is a commonsense measure that will remove unnecessary, duplicative red tape to speed up the buildout of wireless connectivity for the communities that need it,” said Carter. “Plain and simple, a site that has already been reviewed and permitted does not need to go through the same process again for something as basic as changing a wire or replacing a generator. As we all work to adjust to a new reality during the pandemic, this legislation is critically important to ensure all Americans are connected no matter where they live,” said Rep. Carter.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), author of the Wildfire Wireless Resiliency Act

“Everywhere I go in Eastern Washington, access to rural broadband remains a top concern. During this uncertain time, it’s more important than ever that we work to close the digital divide. Our communities have also experienced devastating wildfires over the past decade which damage or destroy the communications infrastructure we do have in place. My Wildfire Wireless Resiliency Act will help our communities stay connected by ensuring a timely response to get broadband facilities back up and running after fires,” said Rep. Rodgers.

Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), author of the Standard FEES Act

“As we have found amid the COVID-19 crisis, it’s more critical than ever that Montanans across our state have access to fast, reliable broadband. By creating a standard fee, local service providers and the federal government will be able to work together to bring broadband and wireless services to underserved areas. I look forward to moving this bill forward and will continue working to bridge the digital divide,” said Rep. Gianforte.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), author of the DIGITAL Applications Act

“Many folks across southwest Michigan and the United States still do not have access to quality broadband, which is a problem that’s been magnified during the COVID-19 crisis as folks work from home, students take classes, and patients receive telehealth services,” said Rep. Upton. “The DIGITAL Applications Act will simplify efforts to expand broadband service in the United States and close the digital divide.”

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), author of the Enhancing Administrative Reviews for Broadband Deployment Act

“This week, I introduced the Enhancing Administrative Reviews for Broadband Deployment Act.  As Americans increasingly rely on broadband connections in their daily lives, a major barrier to increasing access to broadband on American public lands is timely approval of licenses and permits.  This legislation would ensure that the permitting and licensing process on American public lands proceeds quickly and efficiently rather than being caught up in bureaucratic red tape.  To help ensure a streamlined process, the bill also requires an assessment of other potential administrative barriers we might face as we increase broadband access throughout the nation,” said Rep. Flores.

“I am pleased that my bill will be part of a broad package of 26 bills introduced by House Republicans.  This legislative package streamlines the deployment of broadband infrastructure to ensure that no American is left behind as a casualty of the digital divide.  The bills in this package promote new and upgraded infrastructure deployments, incentivize competition and consumer choice, lessen regulations for building infrastructures across industries, and facilitate broadband deployment on American public land,” Flores continued.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), author of the Expediting Federal Broadband Reviews Act

“The Expediting Federal Broadband Deployment Reviews Act creates a task force within federal agencies responsible for broadband permitting on federal land to expedite the consideration of permits. This will speed up the consideration of broadband deployment on federal land for public use. I’m confident this legislation is a major step towards ensuring every American has access to high-speed internet services,” said Rep. Duncan.

Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), author of the Facilitating DIGITAL Applications Act

“Across the country many rural communities lack high-quality broadband internet service. Access to high speed internet is essential in the 21st Century, particularly as homes are turned into offices and classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. McKinley. This bill helps streamline the application process, essentially speeding up the deployment of broadband infrastructure. As we work to close the digital divide in West Virginia and across the country, this is positive step in the right direction.”

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), author of the Federal Broadband Deployment Tracking Act

“The bureaucratic process for approving and denying communication use on federal lands has delayed deployment of broadband to rural Americans. Access to broadband has never been more critical for North Carolinians as we fight this global health pandemic,” said Rep. Hudson. “I look forward to advancing this legislation and clearing the backlog holding rural America back.”

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), author of the Connecting Communities Post Disasters Act

“As a Gulf Coast Texan, natural disasters devastate our communities quite often. These storms can damage and even destroy local infrastructure, including cell towers. Ensuring we can get reconnected post-disaster is critical to helping our communities get back on their feet,” Rep. Olson stated. “I’m proud that my bill, the Connecting Communities Post Disaster Act, was included in this package. This bill makes sure that communities across America can get their communications facilities back up and running after the unthinkable happens and make them more resilient to weather the next storm.”

Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), author of the Federal Broadband Deployment in Underserved Areas Act and the Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act of 2019

“This package, including both of my bills, is a major win for Utah and both urban and rural communities across the country. Broadband access is crucial to education and employment opportunities – and as we’ve seen during the pandemic, is critical to delivering healthcare to those in rural America. Too often duplicative regulations and inefficient practices at federal agencies slows broadband deployment down; the proposals in this package will close the digital gap, bringing all Americans access to the internet.

Specifically, my bills will remove barriers that hinder broadband deployment on Federal lands and delay internet access for neighboring communities. The Federal Broadband Deployment in Unserved Areas Act requires that the FCC share their geospatial data on broadband availability with USDA and DOI and requires that the three work together to identify unserved areas with broadband capability. The Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act will speed up permitting for projects on Federal land by allowing States and Tribes to take on the responsibility of environmental review. Both bills will increase the efficiency of Federal broadband permitting and get internet to Americans sooner,” said Rep. Curtis.

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