Legislation introduced to expand broadband infrastructure

U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner, R-CO, Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Steve Daines, R-MT, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, recently introduced bipartisan legislation to expand broadband infrastructure. The Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act would increase broadband deployment by cutting red tape for companies, states and local governments who want to install broadband infrastructure on federal land and promotes the simultaneous installation of broadband conduit during federal transportation projects.

“Access to broadband is access to the modern economy,” Gardner said. “This bill would make federal construction projects more efficient by encouraging simultaneous construction of transportation and broadband infrastructure. In addition, the bill would build on my efforts to encourage faster deployment of broadband infrastructure on federal lands. Continued rural economic development depends on expanded broadband internet access and I’m proud to support this effort to ensure that expansion happens.”

“Access to high-speed internet is a basic requirement to compete in today’s global economy,” Klobuchar said. “Yet as I go around Minnesota, I hear from community leaders, residents and businesses who are in urgent need of reliable broadband. This critical bipartisan legislation would help improve the deployment of broadband infrastructure at a lower cost so that more Americans have access to high-speed internet no matter where they live.”

“Reliable, fast internet access is a necessity and should not be a luxury,” said Gillibrand. “The Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act would give our rural communities in New York greater access to the broadband infrastructure they need to get online and stay competitive in our digital economy. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bipartisan legislation to keep all of our communities up to speed.”

“Rural Montanans need access to high-speed Internet to support local jobs and compete in the 21st century economy,” said Daines. “We cannot let government regulations stand in the way of the 41 percent of rural Montanans who still lack access to high-speed broadband.”

The Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act would ensure states simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects that involve constructing a new highway or adding an additional lane or shoulder — known as “dig once.” The bill establishes a “standard fee” to streamline leasing agreements involving the installation, construction and maintenance of a communications facility by instructing agencies in possession of federal government property or infrastructure to grant a real property interest to applicants, which may include states, wireless carriers, or other organizations seeking to install communications facilities.

“Dig once” is essential to expanding our broadband infrastructure because the Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost of deploying broadband consists of digging up and replacing the road. This means that it is ten times more expensive to install broadband conduit alone instead of installing it along with road repairs. Also, broadband conduit installations currently add to the number of road construction projects, creating more traffic congestion. Further streamlining the siting process for wireless infrastructure on federal land will make deployment in underserved areas easier.