Ninth Circuit Court to Hear Small Cells Arguments February 10

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The fight between municipalities and the FCC over small cell siting has dragged into the New Year. Oral arguments are set for Monday, February 10, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. 

At least 30 cities, many from California and Washington state are involved, as are four counties and 11 powercos and associations representing them.

 On the other side are the FCC and the Department of Justice.

At issue is the FCC’s 2018 ruling to streamline permitting for small cell infrastructure. It governs how much localities can charge carriers for permitting and imposes a shot-clock for local and state governments to approve or deny such applications.

Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Schettenhelm wrote in a December note that he gives the agency a “slight” edge going into the argument because the Commission “wins most lawsuits and has a strong record against cities.” But it’s a close call, he added.  

The FCC order limits municipalities from charging more than a $100 application fee for each application to site a small cell and an annual pole attachment fee of $270. A study by Corning estimates the order reduces carriers’ costs by $7,500 per small cell over the next five years, reports Bloomberg.

Cities are also fighting the FCC’s August 2018 pole attachment order. The ruling makes it easier for telecoms to move previously installed wires on utility poles in order to attach new ones. Carriers including Sprint are fighting the change, saying it doesn’t offer telecoms enough relief, Inside Towers reported.

Several cases have been consolidated into one. The case is: City of Eugene, Oregon, et al v. FCC, et al. (Case #: 19-70344).

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