Feb 16, 2021 / Infrastructure

McMorris Rodgers Introduces Legislation to Expedite Restoration of Wireless Communications in Wake of Devastating Wildfires

Washington, D.C. (February 17, 2021) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) yesterday introduced the Wildfire Wireless Resiliency Act to speed up projects to replace or improve wireless communications facilities damaged during a wildfire.

“The devastating wildfires in Eastern Washington have left families and workers without reliable access to the internet. This has prevented hundreds of individuals from accessing vital health care, remote work, and economic resources, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified these challenges,” said Rodgers. “Unreliable internet and limited broadband access has also set countless children back in school because of connectivity issues while far too many schools remain closed. It’s unacceptable and hurting the next generation. My goal in introducing this bill is to restore and improve the wireless communications that are fundamental to our everyday life in Eastern Washington and across the country.”

The Wildfire Wireless Resiliency Act creates a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act that allows for the expedited rebuilding or improving of broadband infrastructure that was damaged or destroyed by a wildfire. This exclusion is specific to damaged infrastructure within areas where the state’s governor has declared a natural disaster, and it applies for up to five years following the declaration.

As Lead Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Cathy introduced her bill as part of the committee’s Boosting Broadband Connectivity Agenda. This larger package, which Cathy unveiled yesterday, includes 28 bills to turbocharge public and private investment by promoting new and upgraded infrastructure deployments, boosting competition, streamlining permitting processes, facilitating broadband deployment on federal lands, and closing the digital divide in both rural and urban areas.    

Click here to read the bill: LINK