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Investing in the Future of Rural America
Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (AR-04)
Real Solutions, Real Infrastructure
Bill: The Broadband Permitting Modernization Act

When COVID-19 moved schools online, you could drive past McDonald’s restaurants in my hometown and see students camped out in their cars, trying to find a stable internet connection to complete their school assignments in the parking lot. Despite so much of our modern lives depending on the internet – from jobs, to education, to health care, to economic growth – more than 19 million Americans living in rural areas still don’t have access to reliable high-speed broadband. This is unacceptable, especially when we already have the tools to solve this problem.

Of course, in order to ramp up broadband services, we need a robust infrastructure in place to support an increased demand. Our nation’s vast public lands are uniquely suited to help connect rural America to our information-driven, global economy. This is why I’ve joined U.S. Rep. John Curtis and several other Republican members to introduce the Broadband Permitting Modernization Act, a set of commonsense, cost-effective legislative proposals that would modernize broadband permitting on federal lands.

This legislation focuses primarily on streamlining the federal permitting process by moving applications seeking to deploy communications facilities on federal property to a fully online portal. It also directs the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to review any existing barriers that stand in the way of timely communications use permits. By implementing regular agency reports to Congress, equipping states and Indian tribes to take responsibility for environmental reviews for broadband project permits, eliminating unnecessary paperwork and more, this legislation will make it faster, cheaper and easier for internet providers to get broadband to Americans living in rural areas.

Your ability to search for a new job or complete your education online shouldn’t depend on your ZIP code. In a hyper-connected world, we cannot continue leaving millions of Americans offline. Closing the urban and rural divide in our country starts with commonsense, practical legislation like the Broadband Permitting Modernization Act.

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