On March 13, 2018 the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet held a hearing titled “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: Investing in Next Generation Broadband.” The goal of the hearing was to explore the most effective and efficient ways to address broadband deployment, and to review lessons learned from broadband projects in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.

 

Witnesses included several industry voices and just one local representative: Mayor Gary Resnick of Wilton Manors, Florida, a member of Next Century Cities. In his testimony, Mayor Resnick discussed how state and federal preemption of local investment have put an obstacle in the way of local solutions.

 

He said in his written testimony: “Mayors are good at getting things done. However, once again, we are preempted by industry-backed state laws that not only prohibit local governments from offering broadband, but some that require local governments that have already built taxpayer-funded networks to shut them down. NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research found that in 2016, nearly half of states preempted cities from creating – or even exploring – municipal broadband networks.* Yet, as we have seen with the large number of successful ballot initiatives in cities in Colorado, the demand remains enormous, and needs continue to go unmet by the private sector.”

 

Brad Gillen, Executive Vice President of CTIA, testified that cities create unnecessary barriers to small cell deployment, and advocated for Congress to provide “guardrails around state and local government” by mandating permitting timelines and restricting municipalities’ right to determine rights-of-way fees. Find Gillen’s full written testimony here.

 

Mayor Resnick disputed these claims that the preemption of local authority over small cells would stimulate 5G deployment across the country: “While wireless providers have touted the potential of 5G, it is important to keep in mind the realities of prospective 5G networks, and the limitations of the technology. 5G deployment will not be a panacea for digital inequity in the United States… Even if we eliminate all local permitting processes, and every environmental and historic review, we cannot streamline our way out of the cost to deploy broadband in rural areas.”

 

Instead, Mayor Resnick recommended that the federal government preserve local authority, work in partnership with local governments, and break down barriers to infrastructure deployment. Find the Mayor’s full written testimony here.

 

 

*National League of Cities. “City Rights in an Era of Preemption,” February 22, 2017. Online at http://www.nlc.org/preemption.