Speed It Up: WIA, CCA Tell FCC Local and State Governments Go Too Slow

WIA and CCA pressed the FCC to ease wireless infrastructure deployment in public rights-of-way. The associations filed additional comments in support of a Mobilitie petition concerning the issue.

WIA told the agency its members continue to face “obstacles that effectively thwart” such deployment. Increasingly, members come up against “significant delays, unclear and inconsistently applied local processes, burdensome requirements and limitations, moratoria, and arbitrary and exorbitant fees when attempting to site these facilities.” In addition, “WIA members are repeatedly faced with processes, requirements, limitations, and fees that are not imposed on other telecommunications providers (or even electric utilities) that install similar facilities in the public rights-of-way. The Commission should act to put an end to such discrimination,” said WIA.

WIA urged the Commission to take action in this proceeding to clarify and bolster its previous orders interpreting Sections 253 and 332 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and to guide local governments to act in a competitively neutral and nondiscriminatory manner to foster enhanced competition.

Specifically, the FCC should clarify that to violate Section 253(a) a local government requirement need not be “insurmountable” or make it completely impossible to provide telecommunications services, said WIA. It urged the agency to make clear that local governments must act on infrastructure siting applications within 60 days, noting that wireless equipment “is no different (and sometimes smaller) than gear already deployed on utility poles and should not face a longer review.”

The Competitive Carriers Association agrees with WIA’s points, stressing in comments reviewed by Inside Towers that wireless siting issues also impact tower and fiber infrastructure siting on public rights-of-way. CCA said its “members’ experience with state and local siting is, with few exceptions, marked by unreasonable delays, inflated fees unconnected to actual administrative or human resource costs, and a total disregard for “shot clocks” and review timelines. A common refrain among CCA members is their struggle to secure timely approval from state and local entities that do not understand, or will not acknowledge or enforce, the applicable federal requirements.”

Some members are engaging state and local legislators while projects are in the design phase as a way to move those forward, according to CCA. Some elected to “focus energy and resources on working with state legislators to standardize siting application fees and procedures, especially in states comprising many small counties with disparate siting rules. One CCA member has deployed only DAS cells, and is hoping to deploy small antennas under a set of clear statewide siting codes, which will make siting timelines and costs more predictable.”

Overall, state and local siting requirements too often slow deployment significantly or halt broadband projects entirely, according to CCA, which adds that even though some states and localities act promptly and correctly, the aggregate impact of those that do not greatly stifles deployment by carriers of all sizes. WIA and CCA filed additional comments on a Mobilitie petition to streamline small cell deployment, Inside Towers reported.

March 16, 2017   

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