City of Houston Federal Update

Executive & Legislative Advocacy

Broadband GraphicLegislative Advocacy - Broadband Preemption

H.R. 3557

The City of Houston views the entitled “American Broadband Act of 2023,” as a usurpation of local governments’ authority to manage public rights-of-way. The proposed measures strips local governments of property rights and compensation in favor of cable, wireless, and telecommunications providers.

The City of Houston offered several concerns regarding the bill, including:

The bill expands the definition of a telecommunication facility to include components and hardware that could be used to provide services beyond those authorized for facilitating communications. This expanded definition grants operators the ability to use public rights-of-way for ambiguous purposes and prevents local governments from regulating these “other” services.

The bill also makes major changes to the way cable franchises are modified or eliminated. The bill would grant the ability for cable franchisees to obtain the elimination or modification of any requirement, including fee requirements, of the franchise agreement by submitting a request.

The bill would completely bypasses all state and local administrative remedies that are currently in place regarding the revocation of a cable franchise. It substitutes the Federal Communications Commission for local federal district court as reviewing body for challenges to decisions, thus breaking promise made by Congress in 1996 that local governments would not be required to travel to Washington to defend local decisions.

Finally, bill imposes no obligations on these companies to provide broadband to “unserved” and “underserved” Americans.

The bill was reported out of Subcommittee and Committee with no testimony from local government about why this legislation is not needed and will result in harmful preemptions and unconstitutional takings.

The City of Houston’s Government Relations Team reached out to Congressman Crenshaw and Congresswoman Fletcher’s Offices to share the concerns regarding how this bill would affect Houston services.