Verizon Seeks Relief from Excessive Small Cell Fees

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Some telecoms are pushing back at what they consider exorbitant fees to site small cells in a public right-of-way. Verizon recently sought relief from the FCC to settle a dispute with Clark County, Nevada.

The carrier sought a declaratory ruling from the agency, arguing the fees prohibit the provision of telecom services because they do not, “reasonably approximate the county’s actual costs,” are not limited to the county’s “reasonable costs,” and are discriminatory.

Verizon asked the FCC to declare that the county may not charge recurring fees that exceed the reasonable annual rate of $270, as set forth in the agency’s Small Cell Declaratory Ruling.

Verizon told the FCC it tried, “numerous and prolonged attempts to negotiate” with Clark County, but was not able to do so. That’s why it turned to the Commission. The carrier has deployed 418 wireless facilities in the county, including 99 small cells. But it wants to deploy “hundreds” of small cells over the next three years to upgrade its 4G network and layer on 5G. Verizon said in a statement, “deploying within the county rights-of-way and on county-owned assets is key to that effort.”   

The county charges three recurring fee categories pertaining to the right-of-way. It charges a wireless site fee that ranges from $700/year to $3,960/year at each site, a master wireless use license fee equal to five percent of gross revenues collected each calendar quarter and an annual $500 fee per small cell, according to Verizon. The FCC sought comment on the issue (docket 19-230 ) which are due on September 25.

Clark County, meanwhile, asked the FCC to suspend consideration of Verizon’s petition and postpone the public comment cycle until ongoing settlement talks end or either party asks the agency to resume consideration of the petition. The Commission recently denied the request, saying the petition raises important issues that could potentially affect other carriers operating in and outside of Clark County.   

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

September 23, 2019

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