Thune Eyes Packaging Broadband Deployment Bills

— Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) left Wednesday’s 5G wireless hearing eyeing ways to combine his STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, S. 3157 (115) , with “several bills that have been filed” also dealing with “faster deployment of broadband services,” he told reporters. He says to expect another hearing on these and noted his STREAMLINE bill, which would ease deployment of 5G infrastructure, “is one we would clearly like to see move this year” perhaps along with “elements or features” of other bills “that could be incorporated into something that could move out of the committee.” One major bill that could hitch a ride: the AIRWAVES Act, S. 1682 (115), which would free up more spectrum for commercial use.

— But opponents to Thune’s 5G bill are piling up. Desmarie Waterhouse, government relations VP for the American Public Power Association, told POLITICO that her group has concerns with the bill taking away local control. “A national, one-size-fits-all approach from the FCC pertaining to utility pole attachments—especially small cell attachments—raises issues for our utilities in terms of security, safety, and creating a situation where our electric customers end up subsidizing communications companies’ input costs,” she said.

— Utilities, while not formally opposed, are skeptical. And localities are lobbying against it, with recent negative blog posts from the National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities. During Wednesday’s hearing, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) described a “lot of passionate feedback from local officials, public power companies and others about that bill,” submitting concerned letters from local officials. He said localities better have a chance to testify in a potential follow-up hearing. Thune, speaking at the hearing’s outset, suggested flexibility: “It is still a work in progress.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

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