Key senator plans to take small bites out of U.S. telecom law

5 January 2017 by Steve Blum
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The basic telecommunications law in the U.S. is set to get a makeover. John Thune, a republican U.S. senator from South Dakota and the chair of the senate committee that deals with telecoms – the commerce, science and transportation committee – said yesterday that he wants to rewrite the Communications Act, last overhauled in 1996. But according to a story by Brendan Bordelon in Morning Consult, he doesn’t want to do it all at once…

“It’s time to update the law,” Thune told reporters. “It would be hard to do it in a comprehensive way, but if we could take features of it and kind of do it step-by-step, that might be a way of getting it done.”

Thune added that his committee is looking at multiple options and hopes to coordinate with both House Republicans and the new GOP-led Federal Communications Commission on the rewrite.

First item on Thune’s agenda, though, is to take another run at the Mobile Now act, a bill that moved ahead with bipartisan support last year, but didn’t move far enough. It’s aimed at speeding up permits for wireless facilities – just on federal land, but don’t take that as the final word – and freeing up more spectrum, particularly that owned by government agencies, for broadband purposes.

Thune has also added dig once language back into this latest draft of the bill. It would declare…

It is the policy of the United States for the Department of Transportation and State departments of transportation—
(1) to adjust or otherwise develop right-of-way policies for Federal-aid highways to effectively accommodate broadband infrastructure;
(2) to ensure the safe and efficient accommodation of broadband infrastructure in the public right-of-way;
(3) to include broadband stakeholders in the transportation planning process; and
(4) to coordinate highway construction plans with other statewide telecommunications and broadband plans.

He included similar language last year, but it was chopped out as it moved through committee reviews.