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Senate Bill Would Combine Highway, Broadband Projects

Newly introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate would require broadband infrastructure conduits to be built alongside certain federal highway projects.

Proponents argue the policy, known as "dig once," would bolster high-speed broadband access, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

“Rural Montanans need access to high-speed internet to support local jobs and compete in the 21st century economy,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said in a statement. “We cannot let government regulations stand in the way of the 41 percent of rural Montanans who still lack access to high-speed broadband.”

Daines introduced the Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act along with fellow Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

The measure would also establish a "standard fee" to facilitate broadband infrastructure siting. The fee would cover leasing agreements for telecommunications projects or grant a real property interest to states, wireless carriers or other parties hoping to build on federal property.

"This important bipartisan legislation would provide a common sense and efficient approach to building out enhanced broadband networks and wireless connectivity for American consumers," Kelly Cole, SVP for Government Affairs at wireless industry group CTIA, said in a statement.

Previous "dig once" legislation was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in 2016 but did not receive a vote in the full Senate last session.

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