Replacement Poles Can Now Skirt Historic Review

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Pole attachments for small cell wireless infrastructure just got easier. The FCC’s rule change to exempt some poles from historic preservation review took effect yesterday, January 16. Federal Register publication triggered the effective date.

Specifically, the telecom provider is exempt from the review when a pole is replaced with a substantially identical pole, the original pole is not historic and the replacement does not disturb new ground. The replacement must be consistent with other size, location, and appearance restrictions. The changes also take into account when a wooden pole is replaced with metal.

“Replacement poles placed in essentially the same previously disturbed locations as the original structures will be sturdier than the preexisting poles, but will not necessarily be substantially taller or occupy appreciably more space on or in the ground than the original poles. In those circumstances, there is no likelihood that such pole replacements could affect historic properties,” states the FCC in the rule change document. Still, under the previous rules, only replacements for poles meeting the definition of a ‘‘tower’’ were excluded from Section 106 assessment while other types of pole replacements continued to require review.

When the FCC Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the change in November, NTCA-the rural broadband association, called it a “common-sense” provision that “will ensure that the wired and wireless infrastructure necessary for the emergence of next-generation services can be built while promoting continued protection of historical properties at the same time.” CTIA said the actions “will help enable the wireless industry to invest hundreds of billions of dollars and create millions of new jobs to foster U.S. leadership in next-generation networks.”

Published January 17, 2018

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