Regardless of what Congress can accomplish this year,
NTCA will continue working to channel the law and policymaker interest in rural broadband into concrete policy gains
for small carriers. l
Scott Lively is director of government affairs and political action at
NTCA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The president, some cabinet officials, and over 100
members of Congress are on record in support of including
resources for broadband deployment in any infrastructure
package. However, recent signals indicate that any measure
will probably deliver block grants to states, leaving state and
local governments to decide which infrastructure priorities
should receive funding.
Further, NTCA and countless other entities
have called for federal permitting reform, including standardizing applications and fees for land
permits across federal agencies. A “shot-clock”
for federal agency responses to applications for
use of federal lands for broadband infrastructure
deployment would expedite installations—or
permit operators to make alternative plans if
necessary. The Senate has already provided an
example of how to achieve permitting reform by
passing the MOBILE NOW Act last year. NTCA
will continue pursuing this proposal as part of an
infrastructure bill or as standalone measures.
Midterm congressional elections historically
have not favored the incumbent president’s
party, and certain statewide elections in
November 2017 indicated that pattern may
hold. However, the Republicans have time to
show voters they can achieve meaningful
changes, and the maps favor the GOP—
Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats this
year, 10 of them in states won by President
Trump in 2016. And in the House, Republicans
have been able to consistently hold healthy
majorities since the 2010 wave election, in part
because of favorable maps in most states and
in part because Democratic voters tend to be
concentrated in cities. It’s too early to predict a
change in the majority party in either chamber,
which would obviously dramatically affect
which members of Congress have the most
influence over telecom policy. Apart from that,
House Energy and Commerce Communications
and Technology Subcommittee Chair Marsha
Blackburn (R–Tenn.) has already announced a
Senate run, meaning her post will be filled by a
different member come 2019. The subcommittee
is the key House body for reviewing and enacting telecom law and policy. Her successor could
possibly hail from a rural district, as Reps. John
M. Shimkus (R–Ill.), Brett Guthrie (R–Ky.) and
Latta all have seniority on the subcommittee.
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Recent signals indicate that any measure will probably deliver
block grants to states, leaving state and local governments to
decide which infrastructure priorities should receive funding.