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By Lydia Beyoud
Dec. 2 — The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee approved two bipartisan bills by voice vote Dec. 2 that aim to help the nation meet its spectrum and broadband infrastructure needs.
H.R. 1641 would provide financial incentives to federal agencies to relinquish some of their spectrum for auction to the wireless industry and other commercial users. The Spectrum Pipeline Act was co-sponsored by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.).
The subcommittee also approved a discussion draft that would seek to make agencies more efficient in processing permitting applications for access to rights of way, particularly on federal lands.
Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) noted the concerns of electric utility companies with the draft bill's proposed changes to utility pole attachment rules. Walden said the committee staff had been working with utilities “to ensure that their concerns are heard and that the bill that is moved out of the Committee at the end of our mark-up process meets the needs of utilities and broadband providers alike.”
The draft bill contains several other provisions to promote broadband deployment, including the incorporation of “dig once” provisions promoted by subcommittee ranking member Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) in H.R. 3805.
The draft bill would require federally-funded road projects to include laying broadband conduit pipes .
Walden and full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) both indicated an eagerness to get the bills reported out of the full committee and to work with their Senate colleagues to get final legislation enacted. “We will march en masse to the Senate together, to get them to act,” Walden said.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is working on its own ambitious draft spectrum bill that would similarly propose policies to speed broadband infrastructure deployment, as well as encourage federal entities to relinquish or share their spectrum for a portion of auction proceeds .
Technology industry groups applauded the favorable reporting of the bills. The CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, Gary Shapiro, said the bills “address our national spectrum crunch and provide innovators and consumers with access to robust broadband networks for years to come,” according to a news release.
“Encouraging the deployment of next-generation broadband networks—both wired and wireless—is critical to enabling continued advances in healthcare, education and public safety, among other areas,” Telecommunications Industry Association CEO Scott Belcher said in a news release.
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