Bureau of Land Management launches new electronic system to help accelerate development of broadband infrastructure across the West
WASHINGTON – Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) launched a new electronic filing system that will streamline applications for communications use rights-of-way on public lands. The system, called eSF-299, will facilitate development of broadband infrastructure to underserved rural communities across the West.
“As our nation has worked together over the past several weeks to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of rural connectivity has never been more apparent, especially for education, business operations, connecting with family, and public health and safety communications,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Kate MacGregor. “It is estimated that more than 24 million people in rural America still lack access to high-speed broadband service – many of whom live and work in the rural West. This is one small step to drive efficiency and enhance broadband infrastructure on public lands.”
“This new online system is part of an Interior-wide effort to facilitate broadband connectivity across public lands,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “It will make it easier for industry to file applications for communications uses, ultimately streamlining the process and reducing regulatory compliance burdens.”
The updated system, which can be accessed at https://csrc.blm.gov, is aligned with Executive Order 13821, Streamlining and Expediting Requests To Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America, and the Presidential Memorandum issued to the Secretary of the Interior entitled, Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed by the Department of the Interior. Both provide direction for relevant federal agencies to increase access to tower facilities and related infrastructure, and to identify assets that can be used to support rural broadband deployment and adoption. On July 6, 2018, the Department of the Interior submitted a report on rural broadband to the White House.
The BLM has long been active in efforts to facilitate broadband expansion efforts in the West. The agency continues working to identify its current infrastructure assets and improvements and develop recommendations to reduce barriers and streamline the permitting process.
Last year, the BLM led development of an innovative new mapping tool: the Joint Overview-Established Locations (JOEL) map. The JOEL map, hosted by the BLM in coordination with other federal agencies, identifies existing communications infrastructure located on federally managed lands as well as agency contact information, enabling greater insight into colocation opportunities. The Department will continue to work with partner agencies and stakeholder groups to further develop the map for greater accessibility.
By creating the JOEL map, the Department is providing user-friendly information that can be used to expand broadband services to currently underserved areas, and streamline the permitting process to provide the best service to the American people.
Currently there are approximately 1,500 communications sites on BLM-managed lands. The BLM also administers 5,000 miles of energy corridors for power transmission (connected to 1,000 miles of energy corridors across U.S. Forest Service lands) which are compatible with communications uses such as fiber optic and phone lines. Implementing the new system will make the BLM the first agency to provide for electronic filing of the common SF-299 form.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.