FCC Seeks to Expedite Deployment of 5G Wireless Networks

Agency expected to Vote to approve plan to override local rules on 9/26/18

By John D. McKinnon Sept. 4, 2018 } Original Wall St. Journal article here.

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators will vote in three weeks on a plan to accelerate next-generation 5G wireless networks around the U.S. by overriding some local rules that could hold up deployment. The plan is expected to win approval from the Federal Communications Commission at a meeting in late September. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican, announced the new 5G deployment plan in a speech in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr Announces FCC’s Next Steps on 5G:
9/26/18 Vote to Streamline Small Cell Deployment

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr:

I am announcing today the next steps in the FCC’s efforts to bring more broadband to more Americans. On September 26, 2018, the FCC will vote on a proposal designed to support small cell deployment. It contains four main ideas.

First, it reaffirms local control over wireless infrastructure decisions where it is most appropriate, while ensuring that commonsense guardrails apply to outlier conduct. We do so by providing updated guidance on the types of local reviews that, in regulatory parlance, can materially inhibit or effectively prohibit small cell deployment. But by taking a balanced approach, we show respect for the work of state legislatures, including Indiana’s. We do not disturb nearly any of the provisions in the 20 state small cell bills that have been enacted.

Second, the proposal affirms that local governments may charge wireless providers for the costs associated with reviewing small cell deployment. Providers should bear the costs of building 5G; local governments should not be required to subsidize that infrastructure. At the same time, we know that excessive fees slow down next-gen deployments and consume the scarce capital needed to bring broadband to rural and less-affluent communities. So we propose that fees must amount to a reasonable approximation of local governments’ costs. To encourage cooperation between local governments and wireless providers, the FCC in the order provides specific fee amounts, below which we presume the local governments’ fees are lawful.’

Third, we tailor the “shot clocks” that have long governed local review of infrastructure deployments to account for the size and scale of small cells. Consistent with many state laws, we determine that local governments should conclude their approval processes within 60 days for small cells being added to existing structures and 90 days when a provider wants to put up a new small cell pole. At the same time, we recognize corner cases where a flood of new applications could legitimately overload the local process. So we put procedures in place to address this. In adopting these reforms, we do not propose a “deemed granted” remedy, which many local governments opposed on the grounds that it would allow deployments without their authorization.

Fourth, we preserve local governments’ reasonable aesthetic reviews. This is an issue I have heard a lot about in my many meetings with local officials. Communities have a particular look and feel to them. Significant effort is put into maintaining a community’s aesthetics, particularly in special zones such as historic districts. We affirm that federal law does not prevent local governments from continuing to apply aesthetic standards so long as they are reasonable, non-discriminatory, and made public in advance.