The FCC figured out a way to identify emergency wireless infrastructure projects for quicker historic preservation review during the pandemic. Thursday, the agency unveiled a process worked out with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
The special process enables wireless licensees to seek expedited review and emergency authorization for infrastructure projects critical for responding to the pandemic. The action was needed because while many historic preservation review offices have resumed operations, some critical proposed deployment requests remain stuck, according to the FCC.
In April, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation notified federal agencies that historic preservation deadlines are paused when a state or tribal review office has closed and is unable to respond in a timely way because of the COVID-19 emergency. Since then, Commission staff has been in regular communication with affected tribal partners to offer support, and with industry to facilitate communications deployments during the pandemic.
The agency proposed two processes for licensees in the midst of urgently needed infrastructure projects. First, Commission licensees may request expedited historic preservation review of projects that are essential and immediate and that respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Second, FCC licensees may seek emergency authorization if a project addresses public safety or critical infrastructure initiatives prioritized by government or public safety authorities; they can also ask for emergency authorization if a project brings coverage to meet the needs of unserved and underserved areas due to COVID-19, or relieves network congestion due to the pandemic.
The FCC has coordinated the processes with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. It’s also contacted all tribes whose review offices remain closed about the need to move forward with emergency authorizations for urgently needed infrastructure projects.