The FCC Chairman’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC)
On January 31, 2017, new FCC chair Ajit Pai announced the formation of an advisory committee, the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), for a period of two years to provide advice and recommendations to the commission on how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access, or broadband, by reducing or removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment. On April 6, 2017, Pai appointed twenty-nine members to the BDAC and five working groups. The five working groups are 1. Model Code for Municipalities, 2. Model Code for States, 3. Competitive Access to Broadband Infrastructure, 4. Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers, and 5. Streamlining Federal Siting. The first meeting date of the BDAC was conducted April 21, 2017, at FCC headquarters in Washington, DC. Four to five dozen more individuals were added to serve four of the working groups in May and June 2017. The second BDAC meeting was held July 20, 2017.
At the second BDAC meeting the four operating working groups gave progress reports and identified fundamental challenges to overcome, guidelines for their work, and created subgroups to isolate detailed topics being addressed. Each group specified the next steps in its work process at the meeting. The formation of the fifth work group, Streamlining Federal Siting, was announced August 3, 2017.
The Model Code for Municipalities Working Group had established two subgroups, one to review existing local codes and another to draft broadband deployment aspirations for model municipal codes. The Model Code for States Working Group had formed three subgroups. These included a subgroup to study the parameters and obstacles regarding utilization of state-wide broadband deployment agreements, a subgroup to address application standards to support streamlined access to rights of way, poles, ducts, and conduits, and a subgroup to develop rural specific approaches for broadband deployment, including economic incentives.
The Removing State and Local Barriers Working Group had enlisted one subgroup to categorize barriers to rapid broadband deployment through data collection and analysis. The Competitive Access to Broadband Infrastructure Working Group divided into four subgroups. The subgroups will study and make recommendations specific to 1.) rates and fees, 2.) methods and practice, 3.) time lines and process, and 4.) transparency and other infrastructure options including facility reuse and commercialization, developing a public database of findings, and considering criteria for federal incentives and preemption.
While many BDAC participants made mention of the short timeframe (by the next meeting in late October or early November)to provide recommendations, there seemed to be an acceptance that some of the easier recommendations will be made this fall and more time will be allowed to address the more difficult issues to be negotiated among members of the committees; that represent wide interests from research and education to state, tribal, and local jurisdictions to information age corporations and industry associations.
This content includes excerpts from my soon-to-be-released book, “Firmly Anchored in Midair: The Handbook of Wireless Site Acquisition and Permitting.”
John M. Rowe, COWA 2017 Regulatory Specialist