A large tower made of metal bars on a clear day with blue sky stands on a peak above the desert

Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed at Interior

The Department of the Interior (DOI) is responsible for managing nearly 500 million acres of surface estate nationwide, or 1 in every 5 acres in the United States. For instance, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) currently manages approximately 245 million acres; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages 96.2 million acres; and the National Park Service manages 84.6 million acres, with other Federal agencies managing the remaining area. The public lands, refuges, and national parks are managed under different principles, as outlined in the laws and regulations established for each agency.

Click here for more about DOI's support for Broadband in rural areas at the Bureau of Land Management.

On January 8, 2018, and in association with the release of Executive Order (EO) 13821, Streamlining and Expediting Requests To Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America, a Presidential Memorandum was 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.

This memorandum states that it is the policy of the executive branch to make Federal assets more available for rural broadband deployment, with due consideration for national security concerns. The memorandum directs the Secretary to “…develop a plan to support rural broadband development and adoption by increasing access to tower facilities and other infrastructure assets managed by the [DOI]” and to “identify assets that can be used to support rural broadband deployment and adoption.” On July 6, 2018, DOI submitted a report on rural Broadband to the White House.

There are a multitude of action items across many DOI agencies, all aimed to reduce processing times and improve upon outdated regulations to keep pace with technological innovation. Economic growth and prosperity in rural America requires access to broadband to connect families, small businesses, classrooms, health providers, and emergency services.

Millions of Americans still lack access to broadband services, especially those in the rural West. By partnering with industry and communities, DOI can better leverage public lands and assets to increase connectivity in rural America. See what our agencies are doing to deploy Broadband in rural America.

In order to meet the goal of “identifying assets” in accordance with the EO and Presidential memorandum, the BLM has published, for internal use -- and now external use, a web-based mapping application in coordination with other DOI agencies. This application allows users to see locations of existing Federal broadband infrastructure, filter data, and add layers for analysis.

Each layer includes information, such as serial number, which is available with a mouse click. This streamlines the broadband permitting process by enabling customers to identify land management agencies and designations early, make informed choices, and ultimately improve the permitting process.

Image below links to interactive map, click to see how Broadband and public lands connect.

Map of lower 48 states with colored marking for Broadband sites.
GIS Map of Broadband sites across the United States on public land, screenshot by Joel Harrington, BLM.