Regulations Are Biggest Obstacle to Rural Broadband Access
In response to a September 15 article in The Seattle Times -- Living on the Dark Side of the Digital Divide -- I joined with John Stephenson of the American Legislative Exchange Council in authoring this letter, which The Seattle Times published on September 26.
Lagging Internet access in rural Washington State: Zoning laws should be streamlined
The article “Living on the dark side of the digital divide” [page one, Sept. 16] correctly recognizes the importance of broadband, but it fails to mention some proactive steps the state can take right now to bring more broadband and opportunity to rural Washington.
Mobile broadband deployment, including fast 4G LTE wireless technology, is slowed by burdensome regulations. The Federal Communications Commission has found that the process of adding or even modifying cell towers to carry better wireless signals is subject to considerable delay by local zoning laws. In 2009, approximately 25 percent of the 3,300 pending zoning applications for wireless facilities had been backlogged at the local government level for more than a year, despite a federal requirement that such applications be decided within 150 days at most.
Rural Washington’s farmers, students, and small business owners cannot continue to wait for broadband. States have the power to streamline the local zoning laws that have slowed mobile broadband deployment. Rather than spend taxpayers’ money it does have to deploy wired broadband, Washington legislators should work to reform local zoning requirements to speed up the deployment of wireless towers for mobile broadband.
Dann Mead Smith, Washington Policy Center (Seattle)
John Stephenson, Communications and Technology Task Force Director, American Legislative Exchange Council (Washington, D.C.)