Reps. Huffman and Eshoo Introduce the Public Lands Telecommunications Act

September 21, 2016

Washington, D.C.- Representatives Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, 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 in the administration of land use fees and gives public land management agencies the power to act as partners to improve connectivity in rural and remote communities.

“For those living on California’s North Coast, the growing digital divide between rural and urban America is palpable,” said Rep. Huffman. “Fortunately, federal land management agencies can help close this divide. Our legislation would give agencies like the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service 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 public safety, land management agencies could practice more efficient land management, and neighboring rural and remote communities will benefit from improved broadband access.”

It is critical for rural areas of our country to have access to broadband and we need to take steps to expand it where we can,” said Rep. Eshoo.  “By enabling federal land management agencies to partner with neighboring communities, this bill adds another tool in the toolbox to help rural communities gain access to this vital resource.”

“Congressman Huffman’s Public Lands Telecommunications Act legislation will be an important boost for broadband here in Northern California,” said Marin County Supervisor, Steve Kinsey. “From Marin northward to the Oregon border, we see communities near federal lands that have inadequate broadband. By allowing federal agencies to better work together with each other, and with broadband providers, this bill will be a big part of the solution we need.”

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 January 2016, he wrote to President Obama to request a significant funding increase for broadband services within our nation’s National Parks.

In December 2015, Rep. Huffman introduced the Rural Broadband Infrastructure Investment Act to offer new opportunities for broadband deployment on California’s North Coast and in rural communities across America. The legislation builds on the successful legacy of the Rural Electrification Act, which brought power and telephone service to rural communities across America during the New Deal.