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Newly proposed legislation would direct federal officials to study the role of unlicensed spectrum in managing broadband internet traffic and report to Congress within 18 months.

The study, conducted by the comptroller general, would also evaluate the potential to broadly deploy gigabit WiFi service in bands below 6 GHz to "at a scale that allows for rapid expanded use of new consumer devices."

The proposal offered by Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., was introduced as part of a package of broadband legislation rolled out by GOP members of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee last week.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and the subcommittee's chairwoman, said the 10 bills introduced last week would establish a consistent framework to help grow broadband service, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

"These legislative efforts are concrete steps by Congress to provide all Americans with the benefits mobile broadband connectivity brings," Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steven Berry said in a statement. "I’m glad policymakers understand the importance of mobile broadband and support swift consideration by the committee."

The measures would also direct the Interior and Agriculture departments to develop streamlined application processes for locating communications facilities in public lands — including a "shot clock" for either granting or rejecting those applications.

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., introduced the legislation with Democratic counterpart Doris Matsui of California. That bill, along with another by Illinois Rep. John Shimkus to exempt environmental and historic reviews for existing communications sites on federal property, drew support from wireless industry group CTIA.

"The common sense measures in the bills, including provisions to streamline wireless deployments and improve siting efficiency, will improve Americans access to new and evolving wireless services," said CTIA SVP for Government Affairs Kelly Cole.

Other bills introduced last week would alter the application process for installing equipment on federal property, establish a grant program to expand internet exchange locations and ease construction and service restoration in presidentially declared disaster areas.

"We cannot allow rural America to fall behind," Blackburn and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., wrote in an op-ed introducing the legislation. "Addressing the critical issue of broadband infrastructure will go a long way toward closing the digital divide and bringing economic growth to communities across the country."

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