Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the senior Republican and President Pro Tempore of the US Senate, released the following statement after his Highway Rights-of-Way Permitting Efficiency Act of 2017 passed the House of Representatives, with the help of Congressman John Curtis (R-UT), the House sponsor of the bill.

The legislation will streamline broadband permitting in existing highway rights-of-way for broadband infrastructure projects. Senator Hatch introduced the bill in 2017. Click hereto read more.

“I’m thrilled to see the House pass this important bill.” Hatch said. “One of the most efficient ways to close the opportunity and innovation gap between rural and urban communities is to expand broadband infrastructure. This effort is critical to improving education, transportation, public safety, healthcare, and the economy. With access to faster internet, Utah’s businesses can compete with companies across the world.”

Background

Rural broadband providers and rural communities are in need of assistance to streamline the deployment of broadband infrastructure in highway rights-of-way (ROW).  Duplicative federal permitting laws and regulations, agency mismanagement, and poor cross-agency communication causes project delays and cost-overruns.

Currently, broadband providers undertaking projects to install broadband infrastructure in ROW may be required to obtain approval from multiple agencies, including: the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), state departments of transportation, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Forest Service (FS). This process includes running the gamut with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, which often requires separate environmental assessments or impact statements for a single project. These duplicative reviews cause unnecessary years-long delays in processing and cost overruns. They also discourage providers and states from pursuing broadband deployment projects, particularly in rural areas.

Statements of Support

Carlos Braceras, Executive Director of Utah Department of Transportation:

"We appreciate working with Sen. Hatch on S. 604 and applaud his on-going efforts to streamline federal processes to simplify and speed delivery of projects critical to local communities."

Val Hale, Executive Director of the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development:

“The Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act will streamline the federal permitting process by giving greater control to the state.  It’s an exciting step forward that will accelerate bringing broadband infrastructure to rural communities providing greater educational accessibility to our young people and boosting the most economically disadvantaged areas of the state.”

Brock Johansen, Chief Executive Officer of Emery Telcom:

“Emery Telcom is excited about the successful passage of the Highway Rights-of-Way Permitting Efficiency Act. This much-needed legislation will help rural broadband providers by streamlining the deployment of broadband infrastructure across federal lands. This will allow high speed broadband to be deployed in many of the hard to reach areas across the United States. I appreciate the tireless efforts of Representative Curtis and Senator Hatch and their staffs for their work on this bill. They truly understand the benefits of broadband infrastructure for education, public safety, health, economic development, and quality of life; and the need for such broadband in rural America.”