Broadband access is essential to the Nation’s global competitiveness. It drives job creation, promotes innovation, expands markets for American businesses, and supports improved education, health care, and public safety. Today, however, too many areas still lack adequate access to this crucial resource.
One way the Administration is working to bolster broadband deployment is by reducing barriers for companies to install broadband infrastructure on Federal properties and roads. The Federal Government owns or manages nearly 30 percent of all land in the United States, including 10,000 buildings nationwide. These properties can provide excellent pathways for deployment of broadband infrastructure. That’s why, last year, President Obama signed an Executive Order
to make broadband construction projects along Federal roadways and properties cheaper and more efficient.
Today, we are announcing new steps to build on this progress, including the launch of several new tools and resources to help make it easier for companies to build out high-speed Internet, particularly in underserved communities, and the release of a progress report
on implementation of the President’s Executive Order. Both the tools and the report were developed by a Federal Working Group made up of 14 Federal agencies charged with managing Federal properties and roads.
Some of the tools and resources for broadband carriers released today, in response to recommendations from the Working Group, include:
An interactive mapping tool that allows carriers and communities to view and identify opportunities to leverage Federal properties for the deployment of high-speed Internet networks. For example this map can help the wireless industry identify Federal rooftops where commercial antennas can be placed to support wireless networks. The national map includes data on broadband availability, environmental or historic information, property locations, and contact information so companies can easily obtain more information. The map was built with open government data, displayed in a new way to make it easier for carriers to take advantage of Federal assets in planning or expanding their networks.
A “Dig Once” guide, which includes best practices and policies to help carriers time their broadband deployment activities to periods when streets are already under construction—an approach that can reduce network deployment costs along Federal roadways by up to 90 percent.
A new broadband inventory toolkit that can serve as a one-stop shop for companies to access permitting forms, lease agreements, and other Federal broadband application documents from various agencies. This web page will make it easier for carriers to navigate the process for accessing Federal lands and properties, which can involve multiple Federal and state agencies that have their own processes for granting access to their assets. In addition, the General Services Administration, as directed in the Executive Order, is working to implement common forms and templates across agencies, such as a single master application for deploying broadband on Federal properties, to provide multiple broadband service providers and public-safety entities with streamlined business documents for the deployment of wireline and wireless facilities on Federal property. Going forward, the Department of Agriculture is also working to develop an on-line electronic application form to further streamline the process.
In the coming weeks, we will also be launching an online broadband projects platform, located on the Department of Transportation’s Federal Infrastructure Projects Permitting Dashboard , which will allow agencies to identify and expedite key broadband projects and to publicly track their status.
These are just a few examples of advances resulting from the Working Group’s efforts over the past year to identify challenges in deploying broadband infrastructure and develop solutions to improve the process.
While much work remains ahead, the Obama Administration is committed to continued collaboration across all levels of government and with the private sector and general public to help accelerate broadband deployment and drive meaningful community outcomes.
Ron Hewitt is the Director for the Office of Emergency Communications at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Martha Benson is the Public Buildings Service Assistant Commissioner at the General Services Administration’s Office of Real Property Asset Management. Ron Hewitt and Martha Benson are the Co-Chairs of the Broadband Deployment on Federal Property Working Group.