Includes First-Ever ACHP Provision Requiring Compensation For Tribes for Their Assistance on Broadband Projects

Washington, D.C. – Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) Chair Sara C. Bronin today announced her approval of the Amended Program Comment for Federal Communications Projects. The amendment was requested by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

The purpose of the amendment is to assist federal agencies in efficiently permitting and approving the deployment of wired and wireless next generation technologies of communications infrastructure, including 5G, to connect all communities with reliable, high-speed Internet. The Program Comment provides an alternative way for federal agencies to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to take into account the effects of undertakings under its scope on historic properties and afford the ACHP a reasonable opportunity to comment on them.

The amendment also adds a provision that requires federal agencies to offer compensation when they ask Tribes to provide additional services beyond responding to findings and determinations under the Program Comment’s terms. This addition is consistent with President Biden’s December 2023 Executive Order on Reforming Federal Funding and Support for Tribal Nations to Better Embrace Our Trust Responsibilities and Promote the Next Era of Tribal Self-Determination.

"Our agency is using all the tools it has at its disposal to create clear paths for permitting projects that benefit people, in this case, advancing the Biden Administration's goals of providing Internet access to all, while upholding preservation values," Chair Bronin said. "I'm proud that this Program Comment also offers, for the first time in any ACHP program alternative, mandatory financial compensation to Indian Tribes that assist in this effort - one of many steps we can and must take to fulfill our government-to-government obligations with Tribal nations."

The amendment expands the original 2017 Program Comment’s applicability from certain property and land managing federal agencies to any federal agency providing funding, licenses, authorizations, and approvals for projects that meet the Program Comment’s terms.

"Streamlining permitting efforts is crucial to quickly deploy the high-speed Internet networks needed by families and businesses across the U.S. The impact of the ACHP’s action will be felt immediately in our current broadband projects and will make it easier for future deployments to connect unserved locations across America," Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson said. "My thanks to Chair Bronin and the ACHP for considering NTIA’s request for this amendment, and for acting swiftly and carefully to meet the urgent need for high-speed Internet networks while protecting properties of historic and cultural significance."

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic reinforced all Americans’ need for reliable Internet at sufficient speeds and highlighted the digital divide created by barriers to high-speed broadband access. The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided a historic investment of $65 billion to help close the digital divide and ensure all Americans have access to reliable, high speed, and affordable broadband. This “Internet for All” initiative will deploy or upgrade broadband networks to connect everyone in America, across all states and territories, generating an unprecedented volume of communications infrastructure projects subject to environmental review and permitting, including compliance with Section 106.

Learn more about the Program Comment amendment.

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