During an appearance Monday at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention and trade show in Nashville, President Trump signed a pair of executive orders which aim to promote broadband connectivity and reduce barriers to broadband investment in rural areas. The executive orders dovetail with the release of a report, prepared by the federal Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, that recommends the reduction of regulatory barriers, a “multi-sector assessment” of the state of rural high-speed Internet access and various other steps to promote broadband network deployment in rural areas. Recognizing that “overcoming the challenges and realizing the opportunities for prosperity in rural America requires action on multiple fronts,” the report spotlights the “connectivity of rural people to each other, to urban areas, and to the rest of the world” as a key factor in achieving long-term growth and prosperity in rural areas.
The first of the two orders signed by Trump directs the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) to work with federal property managing agencies in evaluating “the effectiveness of the GSA Common Form Application (GCFA) for use in streamlining and expediting the processing and review of requests to locate broadband facilities” on federal government property. Mandated by Section 6409 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the GCFA is designed to facilitate the processing of requests for wireless facility siting on federal property and to provide “additional predictability regarding the availability of locations . . . to installers of wireless broadband facilities.” In addition to requiring the GSA to determine whether revisions to the GCFA are appropriate, the order requires federal property managing agencies to “expeditiously” review and approve requests to locate broadband facilities on federal property “unless approval would negatively affect performance of the agency’s mission or otherwise not be in the best interests of the United States.” Recommended improvements to the GCFA must be submitted to the director of the Office of Management and Budget within one year, and federal property managing agencies must report quarterly to the GSA on the number of GCFAs received, “the percentage rejected, the basis for any rejection, and the number of working days each application was pending before being approved or rejected.”
Separately, the President also ordered the Secretary of the Interior to “develop a plan to support rural broadband development and adoption by increasing access to tower facilities and other infrastructure assets” managed by the Department of the Interior (DOI). Toward that end, the DOI is directed to “draft model terms and conditions for use in securing tower facilities and other infrastructure assets for broadband deployment.” As he signed both orders, President Trump remarked to his audience: “those towers are going to go up, and you’re going to have great, great broadband.”