The White House launched three new tools to help accelerate broadband infrastructure deployment across the nation, specifically on federally owned land.

According to a Sept. 16 White House blog post, the Obama administration is trying to make it easier for companies to install broadband infrastructure on federally owned properties and roads – nearly 30 percent of all land in the U.S. (including roughly 10,000 buildings). Toward that end, the President signed an executive order last year to make private-sector broadband construction projects on those roadways and buildings cheaper and more efficient.

The three new tools are intended to encourage broadband buildouts, particularly in underserved communities. A collaboration of 14 federal agencies tasked with managing federal properties and roads developed the tools and drafted a report to highlight progress to date on the broadband executive order.

Interactive Map

The map pinpoints U.S. General Services Administration owned buildings and parcels of land. According to the White House, the map can help service providers identify where commercial antennas can be placed to support wireless networks. The map also overlays other data, to point out things like environmentally protected areas and land protected by tribal sovereignty.

Screenshot of White House's interactive broadband map

A “Dig Once” Guide

The guide outlines best practices and policies to better coordinate construction activities among different carriers by taking advantage of previously scheduled construction. The idea is that a coordinated approach will help reduce network deployment costs on federal roadways by up to 90 percent.

Broadband Inventory Toolkit

The toolkit serves as a guide to help companies access necessary paperwork involved with broadband infrastructure deployment: permitting forms, lease agreements and other federal documents. According to the blog post, federal agencies are working towards simpler and more streamlined application processes, like developing a single master application to deploy broadband on federal land, for example.

Not Enough Progress?

Despite what some may consider progress, other experts claim the White House's recent actions won't effectively address the lack of broadband access issue. Christopher Mitchell, director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance – an advocacy group for community-developed broadband – said the new White House efforts will have little impact because he feels bigger, politically influenced telecom firms will dominate the market, smoking out any competition, like potential municipal networks.

Currently 19 states prohibit or discourage the development of municipal networks, Mitchell said, which means that only a few telecom providers will continue to dominate the broadband market.

“Over 400 local governments have already invested in fiber networks to serve local businesses and/or residents because they understand that state and federal programs will not address real Internet access challenges,” Mitchell said. “Communities are smart to take action themselves rather than waiting for Washington, D.C., or major telecommunications companies to build the necessary networks.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.