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Heller move would speed broadband access to rural Nevada

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Dean Heller on Thursday won committee approval of legislative language to boost broadband access in Nevada’s rural areas by putting federal agencies on a “shot clock.”

“Spectrum doesn’t do us very much good if wireless companies can’t even get their applications approved by these agencies,” the Nevada Republican told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which approved his proposal by voice vote.

Heller’s two amendments would impose a 270-day shot clock for application decisions on easements or rights of way and require the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to develop recommendations on streamlining the broadband facility location application process.

In one example, the senator pointed to an NTIA grant to help get fiber to several rural hospitals in Nevada, including Winnemucca, Pahrump, Elko, Tonopah, Lovelock, Hawthorne, Yerington, Ely, Gardnerville and Battle Mountain.

“It’s taken years, years to get that out there, primarily because of how long it took to get the applications approved by both the BLM and the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Heller said.

He also shared with the panel the time it took to get service to Mount Charleston, a small community that attracts tourists and has a Girl Scout camp.

“It took more than two years just to resolve service for the Girl Scout camp through federal bureaucracy,” Heller said. “And Mount Charleston is still not fully connected years later. So, this shot clock is going to make a big difference.”

The committee included the senator’s amendments in the MOBILE NOW Act, which also was approved by voice vote.

That bill addresses the development of next-generation 5G wireless broadband by ensuring more spectrum is available for commercial use and reducing red tape associated with building wireless networks.

Contact Jim Myers at jmyers@reviewjournal.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @myers_dc

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