Rep. Huffman Introduces the Public Lands Telecommunications Act

May 09, 2019

Washington, D.C.- Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today introduced the Public Lands Telecommunications Act to unlock new opportunities for responsible broadband infrastructure deployment on and near federal public lands. The legislation builds on proven successes of land use fees and gives public land management agencies the power to act as partners to improve connectivity in rural and remote communities.

“High speed broadband is key to unlocking economic development, protecting public safety, and promoting vibrant quality of life, but yet a stark digital divide between rural and urban America persists,” said Rep. Huffman. “Fortunately, federal land management agencies can do more to close this digital divide. The Public Lands Telecommunications Act would give agencies like the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management the necessary authority, incentives, and resources to partner with private industry and local communities to expand telecommunications infrastructure and services. This approach to improved connectivity has something for everyone: visitors could see improved interpretive services and safety, land management agencies could practice more efficient land management, and neighboring rural and remote communities would benefit from improved broadband access, including for public safety.”

“I would like to thank Congressman Huffman for introducing this important legislation,” said Connie Stewart, executive director of the California Center for Rural Policy at Humboldt State University. “I know this legislation, if enacted, will make a big difference in helping rural communities working on deploying broadband to end the digital divide and I truly believe it will be a relief to federal employees permitting projects in rural communities.”

As of 2017, the federal government found that 24% of rural America and 32% of those on Tribal land lack access to advanced broadband.

The Public Lands Telecommunications Act would accelerate broadband and telecommunications deployment on and near public lands by:

  • Providing federal land management agencies with fee retention authority for rights-of-way and other telecommunications infrastructure use authorizations to ensure these funds are reinvested to further broadband and telecommunications deployment;
  • Providing cooperative agreement authority to federal land management agencies for the administration of communications sites to break down funding silos and encourage new federal partnerships.

Rep. Huffman has long been an advocate of broadband deployment on the North Coast. A version of the bill was approved by the Natural Resources Committee by unanimous consent in the 115th Congress.

The Public Lands Telecommunications Act is cosponsored by Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS). It is supported by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband, and Rural County Representatives of California.