This week, the House Natural Resources Committee approved legislation that will expedite the permitting process for broadband projects on federal land.  The bill would speed up the permitting process that safeguards federal environmental laws. 

Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) and his fellow Democrats oppose the bill because it exempts certain broadband projects from the environmental review process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  In addition, the bill would establish a categorical exclusion under NEPA for projects that facilitate broadband deployment on federal land.

The bill was endorsed by rural broadband advocacy groups including NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association.  The bill is a “welcome step forward in the efforts to streamline broadband permitting processes in existing highway rights-of-way for broadband infrastructure projects” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA.  Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a similar bill in the Senate, S. 604, but the bill has not received a hearing or markup.

Timothy Spisak, Acting Assistant Director at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), endorsed similar proposals that promote broadband deployment on federal land last month when he testified before the House Natural Resources Committee.