Thune, Schatz Re-Introduce Small Cell Deployment Bill

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U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) Monday reintroduced the Streamlining the Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance Small Cell Deployment Act, or STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act. Thune chairs the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, and Schatz is the ranking subcommittee member.

The legislation updates the Communications Act to better reflect developing technology and facilitate the rapid deployment of 5G networks.

 It sets reasonable standards for public review of infrastructure siting while recognizing the unique challenges for small municipalities.

 Key provisions are:

Reasonable process and timeframe guidelines specific to small cell applications for state and local consideration:

  • Permits must be approved or denied on publicly available criteria that are reasonable, objective, and non-discriminatory.
  • Small cell applications may be denied or regulated for objective and reasonable structural engineering standards, safety requirements or aesthetic or concealment requirements.
  • Applications must be acted on no later than 60 days for requests to co-locate equipment and 90 days for other requests.
  • Flexibility and additional time is allowed for small municipalities (fewer than 50,000 residents).
  • Empowers the Federal FCC to grant flexibility by issuing a one-time 30-day waiver of the timeframes required for action upon a request by a state or local government.

Requirements for reasonable state and local fees for processing applications:

  • Fees must be publicly disclosed, competitively neutral, technology neutral, nondiscriminatory and based on actual and direct costs (including, for example, costs for maintenance and inspections).

In response, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr stated: “Their bill demonstrates bipartisan support for fee limits, timelines, and other reforms that are key to accelerating the buildout of 5G infrastructure in communities across the country.  If passed, their work to modernize our country’s approach to small cells would notch another solid win for the U.S. in the race to 5G.”

The National Association of Tower Erectors said the association supported the bill in the previous session of Congress and does so now. “NATE member contractors are currently on the front lines densifying wireless networks through small cell installations and this legislation, coupled with the FCC’s leadership on key streamlining reforms, will ultimately serve to expedite the process of deploying the hundreds of thousands of small cell antennas and related infrastructure that is necessary to enable 5G connectivity in the United States,” stated NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway.

June 4, 2019

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