FCC Will Seek to Soothe State and Local Concerns About 5G Deployment, Carr Says

When it comes to 5G (fifth generation) wireless deployment, "Being first matters. It's a big deal," FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said repeatedly during remarks to the monthly Media Institute luncheon in Washington on Thursday. He acknowledged that when the Commission addresses 5G at next Wednesday's monthly session, the needs of state and local agencies will be thoroughly considered - especially complaints that the profusion of small towers are a gift to the big wireless carriers with insufficient compensation to local governments. The goal is to "reduce barriers to build 5G infrastructure," he said. 

Carr estimated that the FCC's upcoming rule revision "will cut $2 billion in red tape" regulatory costs for the industry. And he expects that well over 90% of 5G investment will be in rural and suburban areas. He repeatedly said that FCC actions "will cut the cost and [accelerate deployment] of wireless broadband in rural areas." 

"I want to make [sure] the U.S. is the [world's] first 5G economy," said Carr, who has crusaded for 5G expansion during the past year. He stressed that encouraging development of U.S. technology is a major goal of the FCC's plan, which faces the immense growth of 5G in China - an unusual hint of government-led industrial policy.

"They [China] have been much more aggressive in 5G," Carr said, noting that about 460 5G cell sites are erected every day in China, which is 12 times the number of sites installed in the U.S. daily.

"We need to get more spectrum and infrastructure," he said, citing the value of 5G to "unleash a new wave of apps" including rural broadband delivery and telehealth services. He especially acknowledged the benefit to U.S. technology providers if the American 5G industry grows more quickly, becoming the basis for next generation wireless in other countries, rather than allowing China to pick off those opportunities. 

"There's a limit of how much we can do with 4G," said the commissioner, who - as has become his fashion forte - spoke (wearing a casual open-necked shirt) from notes, but not prepared text, to the buttoned-down audience. "To truly scale 5G, we've got to press forward."

Carr explained that 5G needs more low towers than the 200- and 300-foot high towers of previous technology. 

"We've heard from dozens of local governments," some of which are fretting that FCC policy will reduce their revenue opportunities as 5G towers proliferate. "We will put reasonable caps on fees..., so that applications can be acted on in a reasonable manner," Carr said. He said the FCC "wants to make sure" that local authorities are reasonably compensated. 

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.