Industry Tries to Keep Wireless Infrastructure Permitting Moving

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CTIA has offered best practices for localities in order to keep the permitting process for wireless infrastructure siting moving during the pandemic. The suggestions range from “encouraging the continued use of online permitting where it’s already available; adoption of online and digital tools for permitting and performing historic reviews; conducting meetings via video where possible and flexibility when it comes to original documentation requirements during state emergency orders,” according to CTIA’s website.

The bulk of the ideas are also being discussed as part of a wider industry effort, led by the Wireless Infrastructure Association, to facilitate permitting during the pandemic, Inside Towers reported. WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein has said issues such as helping municipalities find a work around to closed offices, or go paperless and temporarily drop the need for a sealed document may help and are being discussed.  

Inside Towers asked WIA how the broader industry effort is going. WIA Spokesperson Amy-Gabrielle Bartolac said in a statement: “For over a month, WIA has led an effort with representatives of state and local governments, our members, and other trade organizations, including CTIA, to develop consensus recommendations with local governments to efficiently process permits and keep Americans connected during this unprecedented time. From the beginning, WIA believed that it is indispensable to engage local governments as part of this conversation to prevent industry-only recommendations that municipalities told us they were much less likely to heed.” 

The effort is ongoing. “WIA will continue to seek consensus with local governments at a time when broadband connectivity is relied upon even more heavily by so many Americans,” added Bartolac. “We are continuing to work in collaboration to produce results that will move the permitting process forward with deep respect for the many challenges municipalities are facing today.” 

Indeed, in an interview, Adelstein said in some areas, “things are starting to loosen up,” meaning permitting can proceed. Now that some municipalities have shifted some of their process online, “The kinks are starting to get worked out.” Yet the effort continues because how localities are processing wireless infrastructure permitting varies widely. Some areas are proceeding nearly as normal, while other telecoms find their permits stuck in various stages of the process.

Industry sources tell Inside Towers some municipal representatives were surprised that CTIA independently issued a best-practices document without direct input from local government representatives. This could make localities less likely to agree to a broader draft that was otherwise near completion, the sources noted. 

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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