fcc-logo-light-blueThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking comment on the Commission’s actions to help streamline the deployment of small cell infrastructure by improving wireless facilities siting policies.  Specifically, the FCC is looking for guidance on how federal law applies to local government review of siting and rights-of-way applications, with the possibility of issuing a declaratory ruling.

In their fifteen page request for comment document, the FCC recognizes the important role newer small cell technology is playing in actively growing network capacity.  While the infrastructure is smaller and less obtrusive, it also needs to be deployed in more dense patterns to be fully effective.  Land use authorities from local governments are therefore seeing a higher volume of applications, causing backlogs that delay network expansion.

The FCC believes their regulatory authority could help solve this problem.  In the past, the Commission has used their purview to clarify both the maximum reasonable time frames for review of siting applications, and the criteria used by local governments to grant approvals. The FCC believes a declaratory ruling would further expedite the deployment of wireless networks, a step that could prove especially significant for the deployment of future 5G services.

The FCC has suggested the following potential issues to be addressed in a declaratory ruling:

  • Local governments’ practices that “prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting” provision of service.
    • Should the FCC attempt to clarify the different interpretations of the 2014 Infrastructure Order that regulates state and local permitting requirements?
  • Reasonable period of time for review of siting applications.
    • The commission’s 2009 declaratory ruling determined state and local governments could reasonably review collocation applications in 90 days and all other applications in 150 days. Are these time frames reasonable for a variety of application requests?
  • Application processing fees and charges for the use of rights-of-way.
    • The FCC asks for comments on whether and how it should interpret current statute that says local governments can charge “fair and reasonable compensation from telecommunications providers on a competitively neutral and nondiscriminatory basis.”

Comments must be submitted by March 8, 2017.  View the FCC’s public notice here:

http://nathpo.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/DA-16-1427A1.pdf