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Cities to FCC: Stop Scapegoating Us on 5G Deployment

Next Century Cities is pushing back on FCC efforts to exempt some wireless deployments from local historic or environmental reviews, saying they are being scapegoated unfairly as impediments to broadband deployment.

In a letter to the FCC Thursday (March 15), three dozen mayors and other elected officials defended local decisionmaking in 5G small-cell deployments. Next Century Cities is a consortium of public officials committed to advancing next-generation broadband in their communities.

The FCC plans to vote next week on an order eliminating those reviews for small-cell deployments.

The FCC's proposal to eliminate historic and environmental reviews for some small cell (5G) wireless broadband buildouts on both federal lands and private property could reduce the cost of building out those networks by as much as $1.6 billion between 2018 and 2026 assuming a two-thirds reduction in reviews, according to an Accenture study commissioned by CTIA.

Related: Small Cell Dereg Gets Big D.C. Hand

"The Commission should be focused on encouraging investment in better networks," the officials wrote, "rather than limiting our local authority merely because the large internet companies find it inconvenient to pay their fair share in using the public rights-of-way.

"The mayoral letter to the FCC pushes back on the narrative that local leaders are a barrier to small cell deployment, instead calling for collaboration between industry and municipalities," said Next Century Cities.

“As mayors, we feel that some commissioners have wrongly cast local governments as a main barrier to next generation wireless deployments," the letter read, "using us as a scapegoat for larger issues. We are concerned that the Commission will take actions that harm the public by decreasing our local authority without actually resolving the key problems that are limiting increased investment in better networks."

Those “some commissioners” would be the Republican majority that supports the order, which was championed by Commissioner Brendan Carr.

The group also released a survey of local government employees that it says shows cities are hardly an obstacle to deployment. It found that 44% of respondents have small cells deployed in their communities.

The effort to reduce obstacles to deployment is currently underway on multiple fronts, including legislation and a Presidential directive related to deployment on federal lands.