Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced 28 bills that aim to boost public and private broadband investment. Collectively, the bills are to be known as the Boosting Broadband Connectivity Agenda.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the challenges faced by families and workers who still do not have reliable access to the internet,” said House Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Republican Subcommittee Leader for Communications and Technology Bob Latta (R-OH) in a prepared statement about the legislation. “This has prevented millions from accessing vital health care, remote work and economic resources. Unreliable internet and limited broadband access has also set countless children back in school because of connectivity issues while far too many schools remain closed. It’s unacceptable and hurting the next generation.”
Boosting Broadband Connectivity Agenda
The 28 bills fall into four categories, including five bills aimed at promoting new infrastructure deployment; eight aimed at promoting deployment, competition and consumer choice through collocation and modifications to existing infrastructure; six targeting the removal of unnecessary or duplicative environmental and historical preservation barriers, and nine that aim to promote broadband deployment on federal lands.
What nearly all 28 bills have in common is an emphasis on streamlining permits by, for example, imposing deadlines on approvals or waiving certain requirements for deployments in areas where broadband equipment already has been deployed.
One exception is the Communities Overregulating Networks Need Economic Competition Today (CONNECT) Act, which, according to the press release, would “promote competition by limiting government-run broadband networks throughout the country and encouraging private investment.” Among other things, the bill would prohibit states and “subdivisions thereof” from offering broadband on a retail or wholesale basis.
That bill is likely to be a controversial one, as others have argued that municipally owned networks can be a good choice in areas where existing providers do not offer high-speed services and may offer lower pricing.
FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington praised the Boosting Broadband Connectivity Agenda.
“The legislation would create the environment necessary to speedily expand access to broadband for the Americans who need it most,” said Simington in a prepared statement.
In his statement, Carr called the legislation “smart” and said it would “advance a bold and effective connectivity agenda.”