Siting Hurdles Knocked Down in Unanimous FCC Vote

Wireless providers large and small have been asking the FCC and Congress for help to clear away regulatory barriers to broadband deployment; they especially have sought help with what they say are uneven prices charged by municipalities for pole attachments and lengthy, costly delays to siting wireless infrastructure, Inside Towers reported.

The FCC yesterday voted 3-0 to open a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to accomplish these goals; it invites public comment on regulations for pole attachments such as how to ensure pole attachers are not charged multiple times for certain capital costs and establishing a shot clock for FCC consideration of complaints.

The retirement of legacy copper is discussed too, and the agency seeks comment on how to streamline that as providers transition to IP networks. The commission asks for public input on questions such as eliminating rules requiring carriers to maintain outdated equipment. 

Although Commissioner Mignon Clyburn voted for the item, she cautioned her colleagues that rollbacks must be carefully considered. “The Commission seems to view legacy customers as an impediment to broadband deployment.” Yet a Rand study concluded some 20 percent of Americans prefer landlines, according to Clyburn. “I have yet to see a landline customer clamoring to have that replaced with VoIP.”

Chairman Ajit Pai said doing nothing can harm consumers too. “Costly permitting processes can make it extremely difficult to deploy infrastructure.” Some of the current rules double the waiting period for retiring copper plants, “some of which has been in the ground since the Roosevelt administration,” he said. “Every dollar the FCC forces companies to [use to] maintain obsolete, low capacity copper lines is, by definition, a dollar that cannot be spent deploying high-capacity fiber and other next-generation technologies.”  

The NPRM also examines FCC rules for complying with the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act. The Commission seeks input on the costs and benefits in both and asks what changes could be made to minimize expenses and delays.

April 21, 2017      

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