How Can Expanding Access to Federal Assets Improve Broadband’s Reach?

We’ve been sharing small bites of the new Broadband Opportunity Council report and recommendations all week. Today we look at the Council’s plan to promote increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to Federal assets. The Council’s aim is to reduce the barriers to entry into the broadband service marketplace, especially the costs of infrastructure deployment. The public told the Council that the Federal government needs to provide more information on the wide range of Federal assets that are or can be made available for broadband purposes. And the Federal government can also continue to do more to help service providers obtain the necessary permits and permissions to build out broadband networks on Federal lands, use Federal assets or cross Federal rights-of-way.

I. Agencies will streamline processes and promote interagency coordination to lower barriers to investment

In addition to public lands, buildings and towers, Federal programs, publications and digital content can also serve as important resources to support broadband. These resources should be identified and made more accessible and available.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • Issue policy guidance to leverage highway rights of way for broadband: DOT will develop and disseminate policy guidance defining broadband flexibilities within highway rights of way. Guidance will include, but not be limited to: the use and valuation of excess fiber capacity within Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS); shared use of fiber, conduit and other assets; and policies for overlashing and pole attachments.

Department of Interior (DOI)/Department of Agriculture (USDA)

  • Explore strategies to create efficiency and consistency in Section 106 review (1) for broadband projects: DOI and USDA will work with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and other relevant Agencies, like the General Services Administration, to explore ways to align and create efficiency in Section 106 historical review permitting processes for broadband projects on Federal lands.

II. Agencies will create an accessible open inventory of Federal assets that can support broadband -- and expand access to those assets

  • Create accessible open data inventory of infrastructure assets that can support broadband: the National Economic Council (NEC), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will bring together and organize key Agencies across the Federal government to create and make available, as appropriate, a centralized inventory of broadband-related infrastructure assets. The inventory will include Federal data sets that contain telecommunications assets, and buildings and other assets that can be used to support increased broadband deployment. All data will be publicly available through a common interface such as with tagging, or metadata to simplify discovery, access and use. While Agencies will not create a combined map of Federal assets, the data sets will include Geographic Information System (GIS) and other mapping data. The availability of these data sets will enable other providers to leverage this information to create regional or national asset maps. This centralized data inventory will enable private and public concerns to better evaluate and access the Federal assets that can be used to lower costs for broadband deployment, thereby promoting investment and increasing competition. Agencies supporting this effort include: the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior and Transportation as well as the General Services Administration.

Department of Interior

  • Expand utilization of towers on Tribal and rural lands: DOI will develop an initiative to leverage over 4,000 towers and other assets on DOI-managed property to support broadband deployments. The initiative will seek public-private partnerships to “make ready” or upgrade towers in exchange for discounted tower leases, consistent with statutory requirements. This effort could reduce barriers to entry, increase competition and improve service over 500 million square acres of land in unserved and underserved communities. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will assist DOI in this effort.

III. Up Next

The four overarching recommendations of the Council are:

  1. Modernize Federal programs to expand program support for broadband investments.
  2. Empower communities with tools and resources to attract broadband investment and promote meaningful use.
  3. Promote increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to Federal assets.
  4. Improve data collection, analysis and research on broadband.

Tomorrow we’ll look at ways the Council is suggesting the government can improve data collection, analysis and research on broadband.


  1. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties, and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment.

By Kevin Taglang.