The White House, Congress and the FCC are all pulling together to modernize rules governing the wireless industry — something critically needed as carriers work to densify their networks and work to deploy small cells and eventually 5G.
“Every aspect of government is asking: ‘How can we help?’ said Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein during a joint webinar Wednesday with the Smart Cities Council. “It’s a favorable regulatory climate, but we’re dealing with a lot of problems,” generally referring to rules designed for macro towers but still applied to small cells, for example. The FCC is about to tackle a specific aspect of those today.
“We’re seeing regulations updated at a pace we’ve never seen before,” he said, referring to the FCC’s breakneck speed (for a government agency) in tackling old wireless regs.
The administration’s infrastructure package may not pass in its entirety, said Adelstein; it has no dedicated funding source and the Democrats are not likely to help with a bipartisan effort. However, “the likelihood is good” that elements of the infrastructure package that are contained in individual bills will get through Congress. Measures like Sen. John Thune’s (R-SD) Mobile Now Act, for example, would help make more spectrum available for next-gen wireless use. Thune and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) have also drafted the SPEED Act, which would exempt small wireless facilities in public rights-of-way from environmental reviews in some cases, “so each little node would not have to go through exhaustive environmental reviews,” he said.
The message that smart cities need to get wired “is resonating” in Congress, Adelstein said. Lawmakers are seeing “new network architecture and Congress is responding.”
Both Adelstein and Doug Dimitroff, Partner with Phillips Lytle LLP, are on the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee. Dimitroff said there’s a value in hearing different perspectives from the diverse backgrounds of representatives from government, industry and elsewhere on the committee. “We’re focused on what we can develop on a consensus basis” for us to share with local governments, and say: “This is how you can deploy broadband in your communities.”
Asked about advice for localities to expedite broadband deployment, Adelstein said: “There’s not enough capital to go around. We’re telling [them] if they want access to broadband they can’t have excessive fees.” Restrictive regulations lead carriers to invest in areas that may have lesser demand, but make sense from a regulatory point of view.”
Dimitroff said BDAC is hoping by late April, to have a model code ready that municipalities can use as a guide to deploy broadband. He agrees with Adelstein that multiple levels of government “recognize that society-the way we live, work and play is very different today” and the rules governing technology need to be updated.
The webinar was meant to convey an insider’s view of what is happening in Washington and how what happens there potentially affects how communities deploy telecommunications networks. It was the first webinar for the joint City Networks Task Force.
By Leslie Stimson, Washington Bureau Chief, Inside Towers
March 22, 2018