More Details Revealed On FCC Tower Modifications Proposal

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UPDATE This month, the FCC will take another step in its work to streamline infrastructure builds with a tower site order.

In its 40-page draft released yesterday, the agency explains an order that would provide for streamlined review of requests to add limited space at the bottom of existing towers for backup power, low-latency computing, and multiple providers to be housed at one site. The proposal would further accelerate 5G deployment by providing that modifications to existing towers involving limited ground excavation or deployment would be subject to streamlined state and local review under section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012. 

In 2012, Congress passed a provision known as Section 6409 that aimed to expedite co-locations—when a tower owner adds, removes, or switches out equipment on an existing tower. In 2014, the FCC wrote regulations to implement Section 6409 and provide guidance as to which co-locations qualify for the expedited procedures. The order makes clear that expansions of tower sites of up to 30 feet can qualify for Section 6409 treatment.

“For more Americans to access resilient, powerful 5G, we need to cut the red tape that hampers work on tower sites,” said FCC Commissioner Carr, who’s been leading the agency effort on this topic. “Through this action, the FCC will expedite the private sector’s efforts to make towers more resilient and powerful—to provide backup power during natural disasters and to install the equipment that will make 5G fly.”

The draft follows up on Commission action in June that clarified other aspects of the Commission’s rules implementing Section 6409, including what equipment qualifies for expedited treatment, when the shot clock for local approval begins, and how to apply local governments’ aesthetic conditions. Those actions are part of the agency’s three-year effort to modernize wireless infrastructure siting, an initiative led by Carr.

In response, Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein said yesterday: “WIA appreciates the FCC’s diligent focus on updating its rules to promote broadband deployment. Compound expansion will make room on the ground that 5G networks need for mobile edge computing, competitive collocation generators for backup power, and other new 5G equipment. This is another strong example of how the Commissioners and staff have worked hard to streamline and harmonize regulations to enable network upgrades to keep the country connected, especially when people need it the most.” 

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