Munis Slam Small Cell Siting Proposal

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Local governments large and small are raising objections to the FCC’s small cell siting proposal before this week’s vote.   

Many localities challenge the FCC proposal to define “fair and reasonable compensation” to mean about $270 per small cell site. Several localities, including Las Vegas, NV Mayor Carolyn Goodwin, call that an “unreasonable overreach” that will upend deals they’ve already made with carriers. Those negotiated deals, she says in comments filed last week, “may exceed that number or provide additional benefits to the community.”

The City of San Antonio, TX agrees, saying the Commission has moved away from rate regulation in recent years: “Attempts to cap [the fees] limit fair and reasonable compensation that will result in a windfall to wireless providers and place the burden on the individuals within our community.” 

The commissioners of Queen Anne’s County, on Maryland’s eastern shore, tell the agency they’re concerned the current language “would significantly impede local governments’ ability to serve as trustees of public property, safety and welfare. They tell the Commission in filed comments, that the proposed 60-day shot clock for a government to make a decision on a siting application is “too extreme.” That’s especially true when paired with the FCC’s decision earlier this year to exempt small cells from federal historic and environmental review, says Queen Anne.

The city of Chicago agrees with the premise of the proposal that small cells need to be deployed faster. Chicago employees are working with the wireless industry to receive, review and approve an accelerating number of small cell siting applications. The city approved 1,677 small cells in city-managed locations in 2017, and as of early September, city data indicates 845 small cells were installed. That’s why it’s “disheartened” the draft spends much time citing examples of deployment delays. Chicago officials asked the FCC to postpone the vote “until the document reflects a balanced approach respectful not just of industry demands but also of cities’ obligations to fairly, safely, and efficiently manage the public way and other public assets.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, the Commission’s lead on streamlining small cell siting, said last week, the agency would review the comments. When he unveiled the draft proposal, Carr acknowledged many municipalities are approving small cells at a reasonable pace. The document is meant to corral “outlier” behavior, he said, noting many wireless providers face financial barriers and time delays in siting small cells. Comments? Email us.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

September 24, 2018

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