Matt Furlow Matt Furlow
Senior Director and Policy Counsel, C_TEC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


July 10, 2024


More than 86 percent of Americans rely on the internet to access innovative tools such as telehealth appointments, remote work, and educational opportunities. Small businesses also depend on reliable internet connections for sales and growth. 

However, millions of Americans lack access to high-speed internet, while demand for greater connectivity and faster speeds continues to increase. Closing the digital divide requires a significant broadband network buildout, but our cumbersome and inefficient permitting process – at all levels of government – is preventing the speedy deployment of these networks. The Department of Commerce is in the process of allocating $42 billion to states and territories for broadband deployment, making it critical for Congress to act to enable the efficient use of taxpayer funds.

Barriers to Broadband Deployment: Understanding the Problem

Here are three examples of how counterproductive government policy slows broadband development:

The uncertainty and delays caused by a broken permitting process increase the cost of deploying these networks. Federal broadband investments, like the $42 billion allocated through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, are likely to get held up waiting for projects to clear the permitting process, and thus limit their intended impact.

How Slow Broadband Deployment Harms the Economy 

Delaying or impeding broadband deployment prevents access to the many benefits afforded by internet access, and slows economic growth, innovation, and global competitiveness. 

For example, greater internet adoption enables small business to use innovative digital tools that will drive revenue growth and create jobs. Moreover, the internet economy itself contributed $2.45 trillion to U.S. GDP supporting key economic sectors including healthcare, e-commerce, financial services, and sports and entertainment. Finally, demand for high-speed internet is only increasing, requiring additional bandwidth and upgrades to broadband infrastructure. 

Actions Congress and the Administration Can Take to Modernize the Broadband Permitting Process  

Here is how policymakers can fix the problem: 

State of Play 

While the National Telecommunications & Information Administration has taken helpful steps to address broadband permitting, Congress must act. Last year, the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved comprehensive broadband permitting reform legislation, the American Broadband Deployment Act, which would address most broadband permitting barriers. Congress must advance this legislation and address other barriers, like municipal and cooperative pole attachment practices.  

Providing greater certainty in the permitting process will unleash private sector investment to build the infrastructure, and the economy, of the future.

About the authors

Matt Furlow

Matt Furlow

Matt is the Senior Director and Policy Counsel for the Chamber's Center for Technology Engagement Center.