Stuff Gets Real as Cities, Counties Fight FCC in Court Over Small Cells

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More than 20 cities and counties are challenging the FCC’s new small cell deployment order in federal court. They asked a federal appeals court to block the rule limiting what localities can charge telecoms, for installing cell sites for 5G wireless networks. Three lawsuits were filed Wednesday and Thursday by nearly two dozen cities, including Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; and San Jose, California, reported The Hill.

The rule, not slated to go into effect until January, caps what municipalities can charge to deploy a small cell in a public right-of-way to $270 per site. It also imposes time limits governing when localities must either approve or reject siting applications. When the FCC voted on the change last month, Commissioners said the move would free up to $2 billion in capital that wireless carriers can use to deploy broadband in rural areas.

Carriers and wireless infrastructure associations say the changes are needed to ease small cell deployment, which has been chained to older Commission regulations meant for larger, macro towers. Critics call the changes an industry giveaway with no assurances; the saved money would actually go to rural deployment.

Some cities say the changes strip their authority to protect the public. Others, such as San Jose, said the decision interferes with localities’ ability to craft their own deals with carriers, according to The Washington Post. In June, for example, San Jose finalized a $500 million deal with AT&T and Verizon for network build-outs.  

October 29, 2018