TR Daily Daines, Kelly Offer Federal Rights-of-Way Bill
Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Daines, Kelly Offer Federal Rights-of-Way Bill

Sens. Steve Daines (R., Mont.) and Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) introduced a bill today they said was designed to make it easier and faster to obtain licenses to use federally owned rights-of-way to deploy broadband service, establish "fair market prices" for licenses, and increase transparency regarding the license awarding process.

"I’m glad to work across the aisle on this commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will help expedite broadband deployment across Montana by capitalizing on existing infrastructure," Mr. Daines said in a press release.

Mr. Kelly said in the release that the measure, "will cut red tape and help broadband projects move faster in rural communities. Every Arizonan deserves reliable broadband access."

The proposed Accelerating Rural Broadband Deployment Act would allow federal agencies to grant applications by federal agencies, municipalities, Indian tribal governments, or people, firms, or organizations to use rights-of-way owned by the federal government to "place, construct, modify, or operate facilities for the provision of broadband service."

Agencies would have to respond to applications no later than 60 days after receiving them and any denials would have to "be supported by substantial evidence in a written record" and "include a clear statement of the reasons for denial."

The bill would also require that written record to be made public the same day written notification of a denial is provided to an applicant.

Any applications not ruled upon with the 60-day period would be deemed automatically granted.

Permits would be issued for terms to last not more than 30 years and could be automatically renewed for additional periods of the same duration.

The bill would also allow agencies to establish annual fees for licenses of occupancy of federally owned public rights-of-way that take into account property valuations "based on the restricted and limited use nature of the underlying parcel" and the "size of the portion of land requested to accommodate the equipment of the license that is required to deploy broadband service."

Under the bill, the license fee could be adjusted not more than once every six years, "to reflect the current valuations upon renewal of such license."

In addition, any regulation issued by an agency governing management of access to a federal right-of-way would have to be "competitively and technologically neutral" and "apply to all providers of broadband service on a competitively neutral and nondiscriminatory basis."

The announcement about the bill included statements of support from the NCTA, NTCA, US Telecom, Montana Telecommunications Association, and Blackfoot Communications. —Jeff Williams

MainStory: FederalNews Congress BroadbandDeployment

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