Rep. Huffman’s Public Lands Telecommunications Act to be Featured at Congressional Hearing

May 16, 2017

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) welcomed the announcement today that his innovative proposal to help connect rural communities to high-speed internet will be featured at an upcoming hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Huffman’s Public Lands Telecommunications Act, reintroduced in the House today, would unlock new opportunities for responsible broadband infrastructure deployment on and near federal public lands, and builds on proven successes in the administration of land use fees. The legislation would also empower federal public land management agencies to act as partners to improve connectivity in rural and remote communities. The bill will be reviewed next week by the Subcommittee on Federal Lands, led by Chairman Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Ranking Member Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI).

Combatting the digital divide and expanding 21st century broadband infrastructure is essential for every home, school, and business on California’s North Coast and across America.” said Rep. Huffman. “The Public Lands Telecommunications Act takes a new approach to broadband deployment by providing agencies like the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service with the necessary authority, incentives, and resources to partner with both private industry and nearby rural communities to expand telecommunications infrastructure and services. With better broadband connections, park visitors could benefit from better interpretive services and improved public safety response, public agencies could practice more efficient land management, and gateway communities could benefit from increased broadband speed and access. Broadband deployment is one area where I believe we can make real bipartisan progress in today’s political climate, and I thank the House Committee on Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee for holding a hearing on my legislation.” 

“NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is grateful to Congressman Huffman for his leadership in looking to promote rapid deployment of communications infrastructure in rural America,” said NTCA Chief Executive Officer, Shirley Bloomfield. “Some of the greatest challenges faced by operators large and small arise in seeking to deploy rural telecom networks on federal lands and property, and we are hopeful that efforts like this legislation will enable more efficient oversight by federal agencies—which will translate into better broadband for consumers and businesses across the country.”

The digital divide persists in rural America, and currently, thirty-nine percent of rural America and forty-one percent 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 been an outspoken advocate of broadband deployment on the North Coast and across rural America.

In February of 2017, Congressman Jared Huffman introduced the New Deal Rural Broadband Act of 2017, an ambitious plan to connect every American home, business, and school to high-speed, reliable broadband internet that is based on Roosevelt’s New Deal rural electrification model.

Rep. Huffman also introduced a version of the Public Lands Telecommunications Act in the 114h Congress.

The Public Lands Telecommunications Act is supported by the Telecommunications Industry Association and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association.