WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) Tuesday co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to expand broadband infrastructure and further the goals of her Capito Connect Plan.
Her office issued the following release:
The Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act would increase broadband deployment by cutting red tape for companies, states and local governments who want to install broadband infrastructure on federal land, and promotes the simultaneous installation of underground broadband conduit during federal transportation projects.
“Improving rural broadband access is one of my top priorities, especially in a state like West Virginia where 56 percent of residents lack access to broadband services that meet the Federal Communications Commission’s benchmarks,” said Senator Capito. “Earlier this year I introduced my Capito Connect Plan for bringing affordable, high-speed internet to homes, businesses and classrooms throughout the Mountain State. By improving the deployment of broadband infrastructure, this bipartisan legislation will bring us one step closer to bridging the digital divide in West Virginia and in rural areas around the country.”
“This bipartisan bill will strengthen America’s capacity to meet the demands of consumers across the country for better and more complete wireless coverage,”said Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein, who announced his support for the legislation at a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing. “America’s economic and technological growth depends on reliable access to mobile data, which means greater deployment of cutting edge wireless facilities. These are difficult issues, but the legislation offers practical ways forward that reduce redundancies when deploying the backbone of our wireless world, whether along our rights of way or bringing service to federal lands and rural communities.”
The Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act would ensure states simultaneously install broadband conduits as part of certain federal transportation projects that involve constructing a new highway or adding an additional lane or shoulder — known as “dig once.” The bill establishes a “standard fee” to streamline leasing agreements involving the installation, construction and maintenance of a communications facility by instructing agencies in possession of federal government property or infrastructure to grant a real property interest to applicants, which may include states, wireless carriers or other organizations seeking to install communications facilities.
“Dig once” is essential to expanding broadband infrastructure because the Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost of deploying broadband consists of digging up and replacing the road. This means that it is ten times more expensive to install broadband conduit alone instead of installing it along with road repairs. Broadband conduit installations currently add to the number of road construction projects, creating more traffic congestion. Further, streamlining the siting process for wireless infrastructure on federal land will make deployment in underserved areas easier.
The legislation was introduced by Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).