FCC Hears About Muni Denying Crown Project and The $350K Bill

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As the FCC prepares to vote on an order to ease small cell siting today, Inside Towers reviews Crown Castle’s recent experiences to see why the towerco supports the Commission’s planned changes. In a recent lobbying visit, Crown Castle representatives told FCC officials, the company favors the agency’s efforts to limit localities’ application fees. Calling the proposal, “timely and necessary,” the towerco cited an example from July from Hillsborough, CA (pop. 11,420).

There, the company submitted applications covering 16 nodes and was assessed $60,000 in application fees. The town denied the applications, and then invoiced Crown for an additional $351,773, “most of which appears to be related to outside counsel fees — all for equipment that was not approved and has not yet been constructed,” the company told the FCC in a recent filing

Regarding aesthetic standards, undergrounding and minimum spacing, Crown Castle understands local governments want to maintain the appearance of the right-of-way. At the same time, the towerco says its encountered communities, “that use aesthetic concerns as a pretense to delay wireless infrastructure projects and others that impose aesthetic standards in an unreasonable and discriminatory manner.” The company tells the FCC its language may not be specific enough, as drafted. A municipality may argue that even existing zoning codes are “transparent, reasonable, and non-discriminatory,” and evade the FCC’s intent.

Crown Castle recommends the Commission amend its language to read: “We conclude that aesthetics requirements are not preempted if they are (1) objective and reasonable, (2) no more burdensome than those applied to other types of utility infrastructure deployments, and (3) published in advance.” This change is consistent with the FCC’s intent to ensure that the aesthetic requirements are no more burdensome “than those the state or locality applies to similar infrastructure deployments” and clarifies that the nondiscrimination prong should be measured by reference to those similar deployments (i.e., utility deployments), rather than to all infrastructure in the ROW.

The Commission should clarify that any spacing requirement that would interfere with densification or capacity improvement using any specific technology or any particular frequency is unreasonable, says the towerco. “Enforced gaps of 300’, or 200’, or any arbitrary number, will make it difficult or impossible to add equipment, reduce cell size, and increase network capacity to meet surging user demand of these exciting new services,” says Crown, referring to 5G. Comments? Email us.

by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

September 26, 2018              

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