Federal broadband development policy moves ahead in congress

7 December 2015 by Steve Blum
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Easier access on the horizon.

The U.S. house of representative’s communications and technology subcommittee approved a package of broadband development measures on Wednesday, aimed at making it easier to use federal property to build infrastructure and publish more information about existing facilities. The bill includes dig once language developed by Silicon Valley congresswoman Anna Eshoo. As currently drafted, the bill would establish

  • An inventory of federal broadband assets, and any broadband asset information voluntarily provided by state or local governments.
  • Better tracking of applications to build communications facilities on federal property, and streamlining applications and environmental reviews, particularly for land controlled by the defence department, interior department and the forest service.
  • Requirement to include broadband conduit in federal highway projects.
  • Master contracts for placing wireless facilities on federal property.
  • A pole, conduit and right of way database, including locations, rates and terms, managed by the FCC.

The database language is pretty comprehensive…

(1) Each utility that owns or controls a pole, duct, conduit, or right-of-way on which a pole attachment is placed shall submit to the [Federal Communications] Commission an annual report that contains the location of each such pole, duct, conduit, or right-of-way.
(2) The Commission shall maintain a database that contains the information submitted under paragraph (1) and make such database available to any cable television system, provider of telecommunications service, or other entity that constructs or operates communications facilities…or provides communications service.

So far, the proposal has enjoyed bipartisan support. Its next stop is the house energy and commerce committee, where its prospects look good. It’s a technocratic bill, so it’s not likely to generate much partisan angst so long as industry lobbyists stay on board and there’s no attempt to politicise it by introducing more controversial measures, such as trying to repeal common carrier rules for broadband providers or extending those rules to include rate regulation.