WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Russ Fulcher (R-ID) has introduced H.R. 3297, the Reducing Barriers for Broadband on Federal Lands Act, to lessen the regulatory burden for broadband development on federal lands. With two-thirds of Idaho’s land designated as federally controlled area, and much of the West similarly under federal control, this legislation will have an outsized impact on rural areas which have historically lacked access to reliable broadband connectivity.
The legislation provides broadband infrastructure projects on federal lands a categorical exclusion from a second National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) or National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) review if that land has been previously disturbed and reviewed. The exemption can only apply to previously disturbed federal lands that have already gone through a NEPA or NHPA review process.
“Expanded broadband has the ability to transform rural communities – like many in my state of Idaho – that lack access to critical services such as healthcare, jobs, and education,” Congressman Fulcher stated on the introduction of H.R. 3297. “Today, Idahoans can talk to their doctor, work remotely, or obtain a degree all without having to leave the communities they love. But that is only possible if we right-size the regulatory burden for broadband projects. My legislation is a common-sense way to help accomplish this goal.”
“Many families and businesses across the country still lack access to broadband, which is a critical part of today’s economy,” added Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). “Energy and Commerce is leading to remove regulatory red tape, deploy broadband faster, get Americans across the country connected, and close the digital divide once and for all. The legislative package we’ve unveiled will help us connect all Americans, and I commend Rep. Fulcher for his leadership on the Reducing Barriers for Broadband on Federal Lands Act, which will help us achieve these goals.”
On Wednesday, the Reducing Barriers for Broadband on Federal Lands Act was included as part of a broadband permitting reform package – H.R. 3291 – and was reported favorably out of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. It now heads before the full Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Click HERE to read the full legislation text.