UPDATE The Wireless Infrastructure Association tells the FCC the local 5G permitting process is improving now that many areas have figured out workarounds to allow wireless infrastructure builds to continue amid the pandemic. In conversations with staffers for three FCC Commissioners last week, WIA said its members report local governments have been helpful during the crisis, and, in most cases, applications are being accepted and issued by jurisdictions with few delays. That’s an improvement from when the pandemic began and many applications sat in various stages of limbo, Inside Towers reported.
In discussions with representatives of FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr, Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, WIA Government Affairs Counsel John Howes, Jr. noted efforts its members are making to address the growing demands on networks as consumers stay home and first responders and emergency personnel require connectivity to battle the pandemic. Member companies are working hard to ensure that medical centers have added bandwidth to serve their patients, according to a filing.
WIA has been working to help localities keep their wireless infrastructure siting processes moving during the pandemic, Inside Towers reported. WIA members now say “more jurisdictions across the country have adapted their processes to continue reviewing applications via online portals, submittal via email, or setting up a physical drop box to abide by social distancing, in order to ensure that applications are processed on a timely basis,” states Howes.
For example, the offices of the Town of Flower Mound, TX, are closed, but submissions can be made online. Similarly, though the offices of the City of Durham, NC are closed, they encourage online filing, and the City of Woburn, MA will make arrangements for filing applications, according to WIA.
When needed, the review and approval of such applications can also be performed remotely; in fact, a planning commission in Kansas recently unanimously approved an application to extend a tower to accommodate additional antennas via teleconference, notes Howes. In addition, the National League of Cities maintains an extensive list of actions taken by local governments to address the pandemic and produced several blog posts to help city councils conduct online meetings and promote teleworking, notes the association.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief