The country’s mayors are demanding that Congress should kill a broadband bill that cuts through red tape

In Featured News by Wireless Estimator


MAYORS WANT TO WRAP THEIR CITIES IN RED TAPE TO GET MORE AUTHORITY IN REVIEWING what they believe are sometimes substandard broadband infrastructure development requests.

During the U.S. Conference of Mayors held this past weekend, city leaders strongly opposed the American Broadband Deployment Act of 2023 (H.R. 3557), urging Congress to reconsider the bill. The mayors emphasized their unwavering determination to renew the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and maintain local authority over public rights-of-way (ROW).

Key Concerns:

  1. Local Authority Erosion: Mayors argue that H.R. 3557 strips local governments of the power to oppose broadband projects they consider substandard. This could lead to the proliferation of low-quality broadband infrastructure, particularly troubling to city leaders are provisions allowing only 60 days for local authorities to review and respond to broadband infrastructure proposals. Failure to respond within this period would result in automatic approval. This timeframe is significantly shorter than the federal government’s 150-day review period for similar decisions on federal property.
  2. Limiting Opposition: Even if a local government rejects a project within the given time, H.R. 3557 makes it nearly impossible to halt such projects. The resolution adopted by the conference stated,Virtually any local government decision not to allow the installation of a proposed wireless facility at a provider’s request is aprohibitionpreempted by federal law,meaning local decisions could be overridden by federal mandates.
  3. Franchise Agreement Restrictions: The bill would also eliminate the renewal of cable franchise agreements, undermining state and local franchising authorities’ abilities to enforce obligations such as maintaining public, educational, and government channel capacity, customer service requirements, and infrastructure build-out mandates.

The mayors are particularly frustrated with the speed at which the House advanced H.R. 3557. Introduced on May 22, 2023, the bill passed through the committee stage in just two days. Only a single hearing was held, featuring testimony solely from supporters of federal preemption, with no representation from state or local governments.

Supporters, including Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), who sponsored the bill, argue that H.R. 3557 is crucial for cutting bureaucratic red tape and accelerating broadband deployment, particularly in rural areas. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) echoed this sentiment, stating,High-speed broadband is a vital part of our economy. To ensure access, especially in rural areas, we need to cut red tape and streamline permitting processes at all levels of government.”

Proponents highlight that the bill aims to:

  • Simplify and expedite the process for broadband infrastructure approvals.
  • Ensure application fees are based on actual costs and provide clear timelines for responses.
  • Streamline the upgrading of existing infrastructure.
  • Balance environmental and historical preservation reviews with the level of deployment.

Despite these points, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, along with organizations like the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties, argue that the bill imposes new restrictions on state and local land use and zoning authority, undermining the ability to negotiate and renew cable franchise agreements. They stress that maintaining local oversight is essential to ensuring responsible and equitable broadband deployment.

The United States Conference of Mayors
Resolution Opposing H.R. 3557, the American Broadband Act of 2023
Resolution Number: 67

1.  WHEREAS, H.R. 3557, “American Broadband Act of 2023,” was introduced with little notice and without full text on May 22, 2023; and

2.  WHEREAS, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce marked up the 98-page bill and ordered it to be reported only two days later, on May 24, 2023; and

3.  WHEREAS, prior to H.R. 3557’s introduction, only a single hearing was held on the eventual contents, on April 19, 2023, before the House Communications Subcommittee; and

4.  WHEREAS, the testimony before the Subcommittee came exclusively from witnesses supportive of federal preemption, with not a single state or local government representative invited to testify; and

5.  WHEREAS, ​​​​​​H.R. 3557 would preempt local governments’ rights-of-way compensation and management authority, zoning powers, cable franchising authority, and property rights; and

6.  WHEREAS, the proposed bill would bestow on broadband providers an unprecedented federal grant of access to state and local public property but impose no obligations on those providers to serve “unserved” and “underserved” Americans; and

7.  WHEREAS, H.R. 3557 would mandate that siting decisions be “deemed granted” if not denied by a local government within 60 days, which is as little as 25 % of the time the federal government gives itself to make identical decisions concerning access to federal property; and

8.  WHEREAS, H.R. 3557 would make virtually any local government decision not to allow the installation of a proposed wireless facility at a provider’s request a “prohibition” preempted by federal law, and would require local governments to draft and publicly release a written explanation for the decision to deny an application on the same day it votes on the decision, a virtually impossible task because such written decisions typically require the examination and analysis of evidence presented to local council; and

9.  WHEREAS, the bill would substitute the FCC for the local federal district court as the reviewing body for challenges to local government decisions regarding wireless facility applications, thus breaking the promise made by Congress in 1996 that local governments would not be required to travel to Washington to defend local decisions; and

10.  WHEREAS,​​​ H.R. 3557 would also eliminate cable franchise renewals, thereby restricting the ability of state or local franchising authorities to enforce franchise obligations such as public, educational, and government channel capacity and facilities, customer service requirements, and system build-out requirements; and

11.  WHEREAS,​​​​ H.R. 3557 would affirmatively grant cable operators the right to use local rights-of-way to provide non-cable services while prohibiting localities from imposing any fees on non-cable services for use of those rights-of-way; and

12.  WHEREAS, Representative Frank Pallone made a statement in support of local control and in strong opposition to H.R. 3557 when the House Committee on Energy and Commerce marked up the bill on May 24, 2024; and

13.  WHEREAS, Representative Pallone included a strong statement outlining the egregious harm H.R. 3557 would impose on local governments and the people they serve in the Committee Report (House Report 118-240) to accompany the bill; and

14.  WHEREAS, The United States Conference of Mayors gathered for its 91st Annual Meeting in 2023 adopted a resolution in opposition to H.R. 3557, but the legislation remains a threat to local governments.

15.  NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors continues to oppose H.R. 3557 and renews its request for members of the House and Senate to oppose the legislation or any similar preemption proposal.

16.  BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors thanks Representative Pallone for his leadership in support of local control and opposition to H.R. 3557.

Sponsored by:
Brian Wahler (Piscataway, NJ)
Blake Margolis (Rowlett, TX)
Jim Ross (Arlington, TX)
Victoria Woodards (Tacoma, WA)