FCC moves forward with small cell plans despite backlash

The FCC has officially given new small cell deployment rules the thumbs up, despite protest from municipal leagues and local governments.

Earlier this month the FCC outlined plans to remove barriers for small cell deployment. The new rules focused on reducing fees the authority or government can charge telcos applying for permission to deploy the small cells, and secondly, reducing the ‘shot clocks’ for small wireless facilities, being the time in which the organization has to either approve or deny the application.

Following the proposals from the FCC, a number of local authorities and governments protested the rules, declaring too much of a burden was being placed on the public service. While it is understandable for employees to kick up a fuss over increased workloads, these are the same organizations which will complain over poor connectivity and the telcos ignoring smaller communities.

“New physical infrastructure is vital for success here,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “That’s because 5G networks will depend less on a few large towers and more on numerous small cell deployments – deployments that for the most part don’t exist today.

“But installing small cells isn’t easy, too often because of regulations. There are layers of (sometimes unnecessary and unreasonable) rules that can prevent widespread deployment. At the federal level, we acted earlier this year to modernize our regulations and make our own review process for wireless infrastructure 5G fast. And many states and localities have similarly taken positive steps to reform their own laws and increase the likelihood that their citizens will be able to benefit from 5G networks. But as this Order makes clear, there are outliers that are unreasonably standing in the way of wireless infrastructure deployment.”

Pai is condemning the attitudes of some of the local governments, and has even gone as far as to suggest these authorities were actively seeking to maximise revenues from the telcos. With the telcos being held accountable to deployment timetables and connectivity commitments, in some cases they would be forced to pay what some would call unreasonable fees. This is an conflict which we have also seen in the UK, though the new Electronic Communications Code is supposed to remove these hurdles as well.

Of course, what is worth noting is the majority of local authorities are working effectively with the telcos and the federal government to remove administrative hurdles and smooth the road to deployment. These new rules, which limit the power and influence of the local governments, are only directed at the troublemakers who demonstrate short-sighted ambitions in laying out a troublesome path for the telcos.

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