Romney Urges BLM to Expedite Fiber Deployment Projects in Rural Utah
Completion of projects will enhance access to internet and cellular communications in rural parts of the state
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) urged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Utah to expedite its permitting process for fiber deployment projects, which will enhance access to broadband, Internet, and cellular communications in rural Utah. Initiatives currently awaiting permitting include the Fiber Build from Salt Lake City to Grand Junction, Utah Education and Telehealth Network Project in San Juan County, and the USDA project for the communities of Castle Valley, La Sal, Mexican Hat, and Halchita.
                   
The full text of the Senator’s letter is below.
              
Dear Director Roberson,  
                               
As you know, Emery Telcom is working with various state and federal agencies to fulfill fiber deployment projects in rural Utah. The completion of this deployment will greatly enhance access to broadband, Internet, and cellular communications in rural parts of the state that are currently underserved. Given that associated federal funding is contingent upon completion of these projects within certain timeframes, I am writing to urge BLM to expedite its part of the permitting process.
                          
The project timeframes are set by the funding agencies, such as Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is my understanding that each project requires permitting from federal agencies, including BLM. It is critical that any permitting delays be avoided to ensure that Emery can complete the builds on time and prevent the loss of federal dollars supporting these projects.
                    
The relevant initiatives currently awaiting permitting are as follows:
                                         
  1. Fiber Build from Salt Lake City to Grand Junction – Emery Telcom is working with the Utah Department of Transportation and the Colorado Department of Transportation to construct a fiber line from Salt Lake City to Denver. Emery Telcom’s portion of the project consists of everything west of Grand Junction, Colorado. This project will assist in smart vehicle and smart truck transport initiatives from both states, and has a proposed completion timeline of May 2021. This project involves both U.S. Forest Service and BLM lands.
  2. Utah Education and Telehealth Network Project in San Juan County – Emery Telcom is working with the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) to install fiber to schools in White Mesa, Bluff, and Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley, and Navajo Mountain, Utah. This project leverages federal education funding and has a two-year timeline to completion. It is important that the State of Utah take advantage of these federal funds to defray the cost of building fiber to these schools. This project involves both tribal and BLM land.
  3. USDA Project – Emery Telecom has received grants under the USDA Community Connect program to connect the under or unserved communities of Castle Valley, La Sal, Mexican Hat, and Halchita, Utah. These projects also have a two-year funding window. The projects include tribal, BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands.
                         
I encourage BLM to work with all of the permitting agencies involved and with Emery Telcom to complete permitting for these specific projects within their respective deadlines. This will ensure continued federal funding to deploy essential broadband fiber facilities in rural Utah.
                                     
Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter and for your continued partnership in this effort.