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ALERT- House Bill 3557 Overrides Local Governments in Push to Streamline Deployment of Wireless Broadband

By Jill McManus

At the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting, bills to speed the broadband buildout were being written in handfuls. Six of the seven bills that passed out of committee on May 24th appear to be focused on wireless rather than wired broadband. These related to procedures, such as facilitating clearances from other government agencies and expediting installations of communications facilities on public lands and in national forests (HR 3283); forming an interagency “strike force” to oversee expedited deployment of broadband facilities/structures on public land and national forests (HR 3293); requiring the Department of Agriculture and of Interior to establish online portals to process applications (HR 3299); standardizing fees for processing requests (HR3309); requiring the Commerce Committee to establish a plan for processing forms (HR 3343); authorizing a new spectrum auction for additional wireless spectrum, and allowing funds to go to slower wireless service that does not conform with the present definition of “high-speed broadband” of 100 Mbps up and down (HR 3565). These passed with a unanimous bipartisan vote 50 or 51 -0.

But HR 3557, the American Broadband Deployment Act of 2023, is a doozy, a slap in the face of local governments and their role in protecting their constituents. It preempts moratoria of any kind on installations. It threatens to take away the last vestiges of local control over the siting of cell towers as established by the TeleCommunications Act of 1996, including over municipal easements and rights-of-way for utilities. It sets up a tight time clock for a response from state or local government, or an instrumentality representing them, which will place a heavy burden on small communities without large staffs and lawyers. If there is no response to a request in 10 days, or incomplete information, or lateness of filing supplementary information, the request will be deemed granted within 60 days. This bill was contested, but passed out of committee by a vote of 27-23 along partisan lines. (Representative Yvette Clarke from Brooklyn, a Democrat, voted nay.)

These and other bills that override both local government and the TCA, which are supposed to protect public safety but increase the ubiquity of wireless infrastructure near us, seem like hidden acts of war against the American people whose consent is not being asked. It means more wireless invasion of our public lands and local streets, and threatens our safety in our own home, especially for those with EMS who become ill near electromagnetic fields. It’s a further loss of privacy since wireless installations allow us to be tracked wherever we go.

If local governments hope to have any integrity or legitimacy left, HR 3557, must be challenged in the Courts. Now.

Contact Representative Yvette Clarke: 202-225-6231 (Wash.); 718-287-1142 (Brooklyn office), or email at her website: https://clarke.house.gov/contact/email/

Tell her you support her nay vote on this bill and why, and that it is urgent that local government fulfill its role in protecting constituents from involuntary exposure to unmeasured emissions from the increasing thousands of cell towers, including Link5G.

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