House committee advances local authority preemption bill for broadband deployment projects

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Key Takeaways

On Wednesday, May 24, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed out of the full committee an amendment in the nature of a substitute titled the American Broadband Deployment Act of 2023 (H.R. 3557). H.R. 3557 would enact new restrictions on a variety of state and local land use and zoning authorities pertaining to the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure, including both wireless deployment and wireline deployment, as well as impose limitations on the ability for counties to negotiate and renew cable franchise agreements. The bill passed on a party-line vote of 27-23.

The following provisions are of concern for counties and are included in H.R. 3557:

  • Preemption of state and local zoning authority over the placement of wireless technologies, including towers, equipment, and small cells;
  • Elimination of state and local government authority to manage public rights-of-way (ROW) by collecting fair market compensation for their use and management, and limiting ROW fees to ”actual, objectively reasonable costs";
  • Enactment of shot clock rules and “deemed granted” provisions which place timelines for the review and approval of telecommunications projects;
  • Prohibition of state and local governments from revoking cable franchises.

The National Association of Counties (NACo), alongside local government organization partners the National League of Cities (NLC), the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) urged the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology to reject legislation that would infringe upon local authorities prior to an April 19 markup of the component bills to H.R. 3557. A link to the letter can be found here.

Counties strongly urge Congress to preserve all local land use and zoning authorities throughout the stages of deployment of broadband infrastructure projects. Counties stand ready to serve as partners in the deployment of broadband infrastructure projects, and a preemption of local decision-making authority would only subvert the intentions of historic federally-funded broadband programs by reducing the ability of counties to ensure deployment projects will meet all community needs.

NACo will be hosting a national membership call on the legislation on Friday, June 2 at 3 p.m. EDT. You can register for the call here. NACo will continue to monitor the issue and provide updates to membership as needed.

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