Muni Input Brushed Aside on Small Cell Siting, Say BDAC Reps

Two municipal representatives on the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee say localities’ concerns were brushed aside as the Commission prepared the small cells siting streamlining item, to be voted on next week.

Debbi Goldman, the representative for Communications Workers of America on the BDAC’s Model Code for Municipalities Working Group, calls the draft order “inconsistent” with the working group’s recommendations and an overreach of federal authority,” in a filing this week. The proposal sets “presumptively reasonable” siting costs at $270 per year per site, according to Goldman, who adds the working group didn’t reach a conclusion about fees because “of a lack of agreement.”

“The draft order ignores our work, choosing instead to further the interests of the wireless industry over that of the public,” Goldman writes. The proposal also limits local aesthetic requirements and historical review. She also takes issue with this, noting those standards are set based on local community concerns and have a direct bearing on a city’s “economic development, historic preservation, property values, tax levels, and jobs.” 

Kevin Pagan, city attorney for McAllen, TX and a member of the BDAC’s working group to remove state and local regulatory barriers, told the FCC this week, neither he nor other BDAC local government representatives agreed with the working groups’ conclusions. He writes: “The majority of the working group minimized local government input into their report and voted to exclude our minority report from the documents delivered to the full BDAC.”  Saying local government representatives’ efforts have been, “consistently minimized” in the BDAC process, he draws attention to a minority report outlining their concerns. He believes the report should be referenced in the Order to be voted on next Wednesday.

In addition to Pagan, the report is signed by representatives from New York City and San Jose. In the report, authors point out: “Commission rate regulation of the public right-of-way or public property is prohibited” and “proposals to compel local governments to surrender use of their property for below-market rates are fundamentally inconsistent with the functioning of a free market and will encourage inefficient, inequitable deployment.”

The proposal is meant to ease siting delays as the wireless industry gears up for 5G deployment. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, the agency’s point person on the wireless infrastructure siting order, said at an event held by the American Enterprise Institute this week, the Commission will review the concerns expressed by localities. Carr said the agency sought much input from state and local government officials in drafting the order. He said it’s designed to limit legal pushback after it’s adopted by providing clarity to the wireless infrastructure siting process at the local level. Comments? Email us.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

September 21, 2018

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