Small Cell Siting Right-of-Way Relief Advocates Petition the FCC

Nearly 130 comments have rolled into the FCC so far about Mobilitie’s request for a ruling on small cell siting, according to an examination of the records by Inside Towers. Mobilitie specifically sought relief from “excessive charges” for access to public rights-of-way. The agency widened its request for public input beyond the petition and invited comments more broadly about how to ease small cell siting, noting that “It is our responsibility to ensure that this deployment of network facilities does not become subject to delay caused by unnecessarily time-consuming and costly siting review processes that may be in conflict with the Communications Act.”

Municipalities are being deluged with requests; for example, Montgomery County, Maryland has approximately 200 pending applications, and tells the FCC it “has had more applications filed in the past four months than in the past 18 years.” The Commission is developing a record to help it decide whether and to what extent local land-use authorities’ review of siting applications is hindering, or is likely to hinder, the deployment of wireless infrastructure.  

In a meeting on the issue with Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s staff, CTIA encouraged the Commission to adopt the proposals in its recently-released Small Cell Public Notice that would streamline local review of wireless infrastructure applications, clarify actions that prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting wireless service, and ensure that compensation for use of public rights-of-way is cost-based, fair and reasonable.

The Mobile and Wireless Forum, which represents handset manufacturers, urged the agency to move forward with its streamlining plan, given that delay “would also delay 5G deployment.”

Verizon too, lobbied the Commission, telling O’Rielly’s staff about impediments to small wireless siting the company has faced. Those include challenges in gaining reasonable and timely access to municipal rights-of-way (ROW), including refusals to negotiate ROW access agreements, unreasonably long ROW agreement negotiations, and assessment of non-cost-based fees for accessing ROWs and municipally-owned poles in ROWs, according to an account of the meeting.

Many local zoning ordinances are not tailored to small wireless facility deployment; the agency could adopt shorter shot clocks for small wireless facility co-locations and encourage localities to adopt expedited approval processes for small wireless facilities, Verizon told the Commission.

Citizens opposing the change wrote in too. Mae Woo of Billings, MT, told the FCC “People do not want all these 5G cell towers in our neighborhoods without our informed consent and without conclusive health and safety studies. … You do not have our permission to microwave us with these towers. This is bad karma.”

Comments on the issue were due by February 6. Reply comments to Docket 16-241 are due by March 8.

February 9, 2017

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