Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

NTIA Adopts New Measures to Streamline Environmental Impact Permitting Review for “Internet for All” Projects

WASHINGTON – The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced 30 new “categorical exclusions” established to support National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews for broadband infrastructure deployments funded by the Internet for All programs. NTIA has also adopted six additional categorical exclusions from the First Responder Network Authority, an independent agency within NTIA, the nation’s communication network for first responders. NTIA has historically relied on 11 categorical exclusions established by the Department of Commerce in 2009 that remain available to support NEPA reviews.  

Categorical exclusions are categories of actions that a federal agency has determined, after review by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and therefore typically require neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement. The use of categorical exclusions can reduce paperwork and save time and resources. In March, CEQ issued a letter finding NTIA’s proposed categorical exclusions in conformity with NEPA, noting that “NTIA’s proposal is intended to further NTIA’s compliance with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and increase NTIA’s efficiency in environmental analysis and decision making while fully meeting NEPA’s requirements.”    

Broadband deployment projects generally have limited potential for significant environmental impacts, and NTIA’s substantial record of related NEPA reviews supports expanding the list of actions categorically excluded from detailed environmental review.

Examples of the types of activities potentially excluded from detailed environmental assessment include, but are not limited to:

  • Administrative actions such as recruiting, policy development, studies, testing that does not cause ground disturbance, and routine procurement of non-hazardous goods and services.
  • Real property and facilities actions such as maintenance, internal modifications/renovations to existing structures, abatement of hazardous materials, and certain real property transactions.
  • Operational actions such as research within closed facilities, outdoor research activities conducted in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and requirements, new construction of non-tower structures in previously developed areas, new construction of certain self-supporting wireless communications towers, and acquisition, installation, reconstruction, repair by replacement, and operation of aerial or buried utility, communications, and security systems.
  • Certain network deployment activities categorically excluded under the FirstNet Implementing Procedures, such as construction of buried and aerial telecommunications lines and cables, changes or additions to sites supporting telecommunication service, rebuilding/relocation of power or telecommunications lines due to highway reconstruction, and deployment of mobile communications networks.

Detailed lists can be found on the National Environmental Policy Act Procedures and Categorical Exclusions and Adoption of FirstNet Categorical Exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act pages.

NTIA has also announced that it will adopt five regional Programmatic Environmental Impact Statements (PEIS) analyzing the deployment of FirstNet, which included infrastructure similar to NTIA’s IFA programs. Expanding the availability of categorical exclusions and enabling programmatic efficiencies like tiering off these PEISs can expedite infrastructure deployment by streamlining NEPA requirements.

Today’s announcement is the third action in as many weeks by NTIA to provide common-sense permitting relief to Internet for All grantees and sub-grantees and other IIJA initiatives as several funded projects prepare for the construction phase.  

  • On March 14, NTIA announced that the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation granted its request to make a 2017 program comment establishing streamlined historic preservation permitting rules for communications infrastructure projects on federal lands available to all Internet for All programs.  
  • On March 22, NTIA released the Permitting and Environmental Information Application, a publicly available GIS screening tool that enables project proponents to identify permit requirements and potentially sensitive environmental resources early in project planning. The tool is also helping grantees design projects that will qualify for categorical exclusions and identify and initiate permit applications at the earliest possible time. In the week since launching, users have accessed the tool approximately 2,500 times.  

For more information on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative, please visit


About the National Telecommunications and Information Administration   

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, advancing public safety communications, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.