Two US Senators circulated the draft of a new bill which would help accelerate 5G deployments across the country.
As noted by Politico and Multichannel News, new legislation from Senators John Thune and Brian Schatz would streamline the infrastructure permits process nationwide.
Provisions in the bill include a clause limiting local restrictions on telecom operators’ use of poles and other rights of way, another prohibiting “de facto” moratoriums on permit processing through delays and a third which would implement a 90-day timeline for reviewing permits. The measure also calls for the Government Accountability Office to review broadband deployment on tribal lands.
The legislation aims to address industry concerns permit delays will hinder deployment of next generation networks and services. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is sizing up the issue in its own proceedings, but the battle continues to play out on the state and local levels.
At Mobile World Congress Americas, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure warned the US risks losing its first mover advantage on 5G if government officials fail to “get their act together once and for all” to ease cell siting regulations.
The Thune-Schatz bill is currently just a discussion draft, which means it is yet to be formally introduced for consideration. While Politico reported there is no timeline for the legislation’s introduction, wireless association CTIA was quick to applaud the measure.
“By modernising how wireless networks are deployed, this draft bill would help enable the wireless industry to invest hundreds of billions of dollars to win the global race to 5G,” CTIA SVP of government affairs Kelly Cole said in a statement: “We look forward to its quick passage.”
Other wireless legislation on the Hill
The Thune-Schatz bill appears to be similar to another piece of legislation recently introduced in the Senate: the Streamlining Permitting to Enable Efficient Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure, or SPEED, Act.
Unveiled by Senators Roger Wicker and Catherine Cortez Masto, the SPEED Act would streamline the permit process for telecoms equipment installed in locations previously subjected to historical and environmental reviews.
A different piece of legislation from Thune targets the need for more spectrum rather than deployment processes.
Thune, along with Senator Bill Nelson, first introduced the Mobile Now act in 2015 and resurfaced the bill in the Senate Commerce Committee when Congress reconvened at the start of this year. The legislation calls for the government to make 500MHz of spectrum available for mobile and fixed broadband use by the end of 2020. Another provision of the bill, which calls for the FCC to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking exploring mobile and fixed operations above 24GHz, has already been taken up by the commission.
The Mobile Now Act passed the US Senate in August and was sent to the House of Representatives for a vote. If the bill is approved by the House, it will be sent to the President for his signature.