FCC Fines Sprint and Mobilitie in Small Cell Siting Probe For $11.6M

Sprint and Mobilitie will pay a combined $11.6 million to resolve two FCC investigations regarding whether the companies completed tower registration and environmental and historic impact reviews before building small cell infrastructure facilities.

Sprint contracted with Mobilitie to deploy wireless network equipment. Under rules in effect at that time, deploying wireless infrastructure facilities, like towers and structures for small cells, required environmental and historic preservation reviews, including Tribal consultation, before construction, to assess possible effects on wildlife, flood plains, historic Tribal sites, and other sites of historic or cultural significance.

In 2014, Sprint began a densification program to accelerate deployment of small cells to enhance 4G coverage and lay a path for 5G. The FCC said its investigation found that Sprint “entered into an agreement with a third party to install Sprint-owned small cells and associated equipment on structures owned by the third party or others.”

The third party (Mobilitie) was responsible for all regulatory compliance regarding its poles and attachment rights. The Commission said it learned through its probe, that to meet its deadlines, Mobilitie began construction of some wireless facilities without first registering certain towers and without first completing environmental and/or historic preservation review.

To settle the investigations, Sprint agreed to pay $10 million and Mobilitie agreed to pay $1.6 million to the U.S. Treasury within 30 days. Sprint and Mobilitie committed to enhancing their environmental and historic preservation review compliance procedures going forward.

April 10, 2018

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