Foot-Dragging, Stifling Fees Impede Tower Siting

Wireless carriers and towercos tell the FCC that municipalities are dragging their feet and charging excessive fees to site infrastructure. Localities argue they have processes in place to protect the public. Some 70 comments were filed in the past 30 days on the FCC’s proposals to ease regulatory barriers to siting wireless infrastructure. Replies to Docket 17-79 were due Monday night. Here are Inside Towers’ takeaways from the infrastructure point of view; see the municipalities arguments in a separate story.

The Competitive Carriers Association emphasized the need for the FCC to shorten shot clocks, adopt a “deem granted” remedy, and reform historic and environmental review reform to enhance broadband deployment. Mobilitie said “There is no question that needed deployment is being materially slowed and impeded by regulatory barriers.” In a petition filed in November 2016, the company asked the Commission to “dismantle excessive fees that many localities are imposing on wireless providers for access to local rights-of-way (ROWs),” noting “many localities are imposing extremely high fees – as much as $10,000 or more per site in up-front licensing and application charges, and equally excessive annual ‘rents.’”

Crown Castle agrees, saying: “These fees, which lack any rational relation to the cost of approving applications or maintaining the ROW, can make deploying networks to serve consumers and businesses in these jurisdictions cost prohibitive.” Crown cites comments from FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly at the Mobile World Congress: “We can’t have cell sites rotting [because of] local governments.”

Crown and Mobilitie also urge the Commission to streamline the pole attachment process. Utility-approved contractors should be allowed to perform make-ready work, say both. The current make-ready process “can devolve into a drawn-out back and forth between the new attacher, the utility, and existing attachers as to who will perform the make-ready work and when, often producing series of work by different contractors, each laboriously identified and scheduled,” says Mobilitie.  

July 19, 2017      

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