Tension Over Permit Fees Colors BDAC Discussions


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How to reduce excessive permitting fees for siting broadband infrastructure continued to be a large topic for debate on the FCC Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) for a second day on Wednesday. Tensions are evident between municipal members and those who represent wireless companies. Those who work for companies deploying broadband want what they consider excessive siting fees reduced, but those representing local governments say language in various model codes being worked on do not specify how to compensate if those fees are lowered.

Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, at one point over the two-day meeting called them “unfunded mandates.” He said he’s willing to support a regulated rate, but one that recognizes the actual burden on cities. “It’s more than the cost of installing something on a pole.”

The BDAC acknowledges in draft form that public-private partnerships may provide solutions to bridge those divides. Charles McKee, VP Government Affairs for Sprint, said the draft language “may not do everything everyone wants it to do, but fairly frames up both sides. When we look at our network … there is no redlining. We have a limited capital budget. We can only do so much.” A cost increase, such as a high fee to deploy wireless infrastructure for small cells for example, he and other carriers explained, lowers how much cell service they can provide. “This recommendation simply asks the FCC to give us a reasonable definition of a rate.” 

The committee is grappling with the concerns of large municipalities versus small, rural areas and the expenses of deployment. A special committee was set-up to look at fees; the group is working to identify rates and fees methodologies that are fair, and balance the equities of all stakeholders involved.  

The BDAC yesterday approved a report from the working group on “Streamlining Federal Siting.” It suggests tackling the issues of varying and unpredictable fees and rates, lengthy review times and leases and renewal terms that do not incentivize investment. The group recommends using standardized fee schedules, shot clocks, streamlined reviews and revised leases with typical commercial lease terms, among other suggestions.  

By Leslie Stimson , Washington Bureau Chief, Inside Towers

January 25, 2018   

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