FCC Promotes Wireless Buildouts

The FCC Thursday voted to propose ways to speed wireless infrastructure deployment, including reviewing how such buildouts are vetted for environmental and historic preservation impacts. That Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry accompanied a similar proposal on wired infrastructure issues approved at this week's public meeting.

At the April 20 meeting, FCC chairman Ajit Pai talked about the transition from 4G to 5G wireless, the increase in more densely packed cell towers, and the need to update the FCC's rules accordingly.

The item asks about improving/speeding local and state tower siting processes and reviewing the impact of environmental and historic preservation studies on buildouts.

The FCC is proposing to deem an approval granted if a locality fails to act by a deadline, rather than having to resort to legal remedies to force a decision. It also wants input on the length of a shot clock on deciding on a cell site application by localities. The FCC also proposes banning state or local moratoria.

The commission seeks comment on a legal framework for a fee schedule for compensating buildouts on tribal lands or resolving disputes.

The NPRM seeks comment on various exclusions from historical preservation reviews of tower siting and streamlining environmental reviews, including revising the FCC rules, subject to conditions, to provide that such an assessment is not necessary for a flood plain, for example.

The "big picture" on historic preservation is whether the FCC should revisit, generally, the scope of its requirements in terms of environmental and historical impact in light of developments in infrastructure tech and other factors.

"[T]he FCC takes bold steps toward speeding the deployment of small cell technologies, setting the stage for 5G innovation and deployment," said Joan Marsh, AT&T senior VP of federal regulatory.

"The notice of proposed rulemaking asks critical questions about how to remove excessive regulatory burdens when deploying small cell equipment in public rights-of-way. The NPRM seeks to explore impediments at the federal, local and tribal levels, including excessive delays and costs associated with regulatory and tribal review and excessive costs to access public rights-of-way. Action on the issues addressed in the NPRM will help facilitate denser network builds that will, in turn, drive faster network speeds, speed the deployment of new technologies and result in better service for all Americans.”

“CTIA is pleased that Chairman Pai and his fellow commissioners are moving forward to evaluate ways to modernize 5G wireless infrastructure deployment," said VP of regulatory affairs Scott Bergmann. "The FCC has a clear path to remove regulatory barriers to new wireless infrastructure deployment, drive significant investment and job growth, and help deliver greater wireless connectivity for consumers and businesses.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.