Timing of the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Incites Lawsuit

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The City of Gig Harbor, WA recently joined 19 other cities and organizations in a lawsuit against an FCC Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning wireless infrastructure.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported the city sent a letter to the FCC on June 1, opposing the NRPM due to social distancing guidelines that prevented city staff from meeting at City Hall to review the order. The rule changes impose new requirements on local governments to immediately review and update their current ordinances, policies, and applications systems involving wireless towers. 

The City of Gig Harbor expressed particular concern that the new ruling will override the city’s authority to enforce wireless facility aesthetic standards, including small cells in public rights-of-way.

“These regulations included adoption of aesthetic and concealment standards for 5G equipment,” said Community Development Director Katrina Knutson. “We believe these regulations should be adhered to in order to prevent negative impacts to our visual landscape.

Drafted to expedite the deployment of 5G, the draft ruling also includes more definitive shot clock guidelines and allows new antenna installations to be allowed above existing antennas, provided they are separated by 20 vertical feet. 

Knutson told the Tacoma News Tribune the city is not trying to stop the development of new technology, but wants local authority over its deployment in their community. The City’s letter to the FCC said, “If the Commission truly wishes to have an open and inclusive process, the City of Gig Harbor asks that, at minimum, the FCC delay action on this item until the pandemic subsides.”

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