Internet access remains a pressing issue in rural communities as students without a reliable connection have fallen behind over the past two years. Fortunately, we can level the playing field, as both the CARES Act and the Infrastructure and Jobs Act have allocated significant funding for broadband infrastructure deployment. Now, it is critical that a plan for efficient deployment be put in place.
For internet providers to bring service to unserved communities, they require utility access to attach broadband technology. Providers often do not own poles, so providers must get permits and permission from the pole owners. Repeatedly, the pole access process for broadband deployment has fallen short. Providers agree that they should pay fees for pole access, but often negotiations are riddled with inefficiencies. Disputes often take too long to resolve, which prevents broadband from expanding at the pace needed.
Congress can take action to eliminate the bureaucratic impediments in the pole access process, which will expedite expansion. They can also set up a system so that disagreements between providers and pole owners are dealt with as quickly as possible.
We must modernize the pole access process to provide broadband to unserved communities in a timely manner.