Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’ s Forest Service issued a final rule to improve how the agency reviews and approves applications to build or modify communications facilities on Forest Service lands.
The USDA Forest Service manages about 3,700 authorizations for communications facilities that support more than 10,000 wireless uses as well as more than 400 authorizations for fiber optic lines. The authorizations are issued for critical communications, including emergency services, railroads, utility companies, personal communications, and television and radio broadcasts.
Updating these regulations will give applicants a more predictable timeline for responses to their proposals and applications to build or modify communications facilities. It will also reduce processing times and costs.
“We work hard to bring the many benefits of national forests and grasslands to the American people,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “Improving how we support our nation’s communications infrastructure will expand telecommunications services to our customers and help rural communities connect to a broader global economy.”
USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand added, “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to using every resource and examining every avenue to increase high-speed broadband connectivity in America’s rural communities. This includes bolstering interagency coordination to remove red tape and streamline infrastructure build-out where it’s needed most.”
The final regulation will also provide for a standard 30-year term for communications use authorizations. Right now, authorizations can be offered for terms as short as five years. Extending authorization terms to 30 years as the standard will reduce costs of reviewing applications more frequently. It will also give applicants more predictability in building and maintaining their communications facilities, while supporting customers that rely on the services they provide.
The final rule can be found in the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/08/2020-07280/land-uses-special-uses-streamlining-processing-of-communications-use-applications.
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