With the historic broadband funding finally hitting the states this year, we are at an exciting juncture in the deployment process. As we begin this new phase, it is essential that states, cities, and towns have processes in place to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running when the money arrives in their bank accounts.
Many of our members plan to actively compete for the BEAD money, so we have submitted comments directly to the states on their Initial Proposals to NTIA. Through these comments, we have stressed the importance of ensuring state broadband offices address barriers to deployment including gaining access to the public rights-of-way and streamlining the permitting process.
To reinforce this, we put together the “Broadband Ready City” Checklist as a guide for state and local governments to coordinate and effectively implement the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program.
The checklist covers five points on promoting fair and reasonable costs on applications and accessing the rights-of-way, to timely permitting reviews, greater transparency in the review process, and promoting more innovative deployment processes and construction techniques such as micro-trenching.
We were excited to see Kansas be one of the first states to lead on adopting specific local ordinances ahead of time and before any BEAD funding is awarded. I would like to personally commend Governor Laura Kelly and the Kansas Office of Broadband Development for their work in introducing a new statewide program called “Kansas Broadband Ready Communities.” This is an important step in the right direction.
By certifying communities and towns as a Broadband Ready Community, these state and local review guidelines will enable faster processing that will allow the deployment of broadband infrastructure more quickly, including small cells and other wireless equipment and fiber that is used by both fixed and mobile providers to connect their networks. An efficient and effective permitting process will help ensure that the taxpayer’s investment through the BEAD Program will deliver broadband service faster and more affordably.
We appreciate the Kansas Office of Broadband Development taking this important step, and we urge other states to build on this and implement the language of our “Broadband Ready City” Checklist.
As we continue to work hard to bridge the digital divide, we believe this process will serve as a catalyst for removing barriers to deployment at the state and local level and lead to more successful broadband projects in the future.
Chip Pickering is CEO of INCOMPAS, the internet and competitive networks association. For nearly three decades, he has been at the forefront of every major telecommunications milestone, from his time as a Senate staffer on the Commerce Committee shaping the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to his role as a Member of Congress leading on tech issues and overseeing the transition to the commercial internet. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
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