Friday, March 23, 2018

FCC Says “Nope” to NEPA and “See Ya” to SHPO

The FCC vote yesterday to exempt most small cell infrastructure siting from National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review was contentious. The vote was 3-2 and security removed two protesters from the Commission meeting room during the discussion.

The changes are for small cells not located on Tribal lands. They clarify and improve the process for Tribal participation in the historic preservation process for large wireless facilities where NHPA and NEPA review is still required. The order removes the requirement that applicants file Environmental Assessments solely due to the location of a proposed facility in a floodplain, as long as certain conditions are met. It establishes a timeframe for the FCC to act on environmental assessments.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr said the changes will save the wireless industry time and money and help the U.S. lead in 5G. O’Rielly said they would eliminate “unnecessary delays and outrageous” siting fees. Some Tribes are using tower and antenna siting “as a cash cow” while others receive payments, but then don’t respond to the providers that are submitting applications, he said. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

FCC’s O’Rielly Calls Out States for Diverting 911 Funds

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has no patience with states that divert their 911 fees for other uses. He slammed the practice Tuesday during a speech before the Rhode Island E911 Summit in Providence. His colleagues Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Chairman Ajit Pai have criticized the practice as well.

O’Rielly called it “appalling” that some states use the fees consumers pay on their phone bills that are supposed to be for 911, for “tangential or unrelated” purposes. He asked what conditions in Rhode Island make fee diversion a viable option for policymakers. “With a state budget of $9.3 billion, why is it necessary to divert a rather small amount – between $8 to $10 million – dedicated for public safety call centers and the 911 system to other spending priorities?”  Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Maryland’s Cities vs. States Battle a Microcosm For U.S.

Lobbying efforts by wireless companies to ease regulations on the installation of 5G equipment is causing friction between local and state leaders. According to The Washington Post, wireless carriers expect to install 300,000 small cell sites across the country, and so far this year, 18 states have proposed zoning law preemptions; since 2016, 13 states have adopted such legislation. Though wireless industry leaders have explained that the demand for better internet service necessitates removing barriers to cell sites’ installation, some local leaders, like Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer, see the state proposals as “a giveaway to the industry.” Riemer told The Washington Post, “We want to see the future of wireless infrastructure happen, but we want a say in how that happens.”

Many residents also feel pulled in two directions, hungry for faster downloads and streaming, but hesitant about the potential impacts of small cell sites. North Potomac, MD resident Andy Spivak explained this dilemma to The Washington Post, “There’s no way we’re going to stop this technology from being deployed — it’s just the way of the world. But can they try to make them aesthetically pleasing or hide them so I don’t have to drive around my neighborhood and see ugly cell towers?” CTIA advised that health experts have found “no known health risk” from cell equipment, but health concerns are frequently at the forefront of residents’ minds when considering 5G small cell deployment.  Continue Reading

Monday, March 19, 2018

Munis Say They’re Not to Blame for Slow Small Cell Deployment

Wilton Manors, FL Mayor Gary Resnick testifies before Congress last week.

It’s not our fault if carriers can’t deploy next-generation wireless infrastructure, the mayors of 36 cities and municipal government leaders are telling the FCC.

They feel some Commissioners are casting local governments “as scapegoats” and as a barrier to small cell deployment and the use of public rights-of-way, they said in a letter to all five Commissioners. The letter from Next Century Cities comes just days before the agency is set to vote on easing some regulations for infrastructure siting.

They say the FCC should be focused on “encouraging” investment in better networks rather than on limiting local authority. The local officials also push back against allegations that city governments are slowing wireline and wireless investment and refute the claims by some carriers, that local governments charge excessive siting or pole attachment fees. Continue Reading

Friday, March 16, 2018

FCC Gets a Look at What They’re Voting On

T-Mobile and Crown Castle representatives showed FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr a thing or two yesterday as they toured selected small cell sites in Baltimore. Touring sites offering small cell solutions, such as the street pole lights Carr was introduced to, has been part of an information gathering effort on the agency’s part prior to voting on streamlining measures next week.
Carr was told although the basic pole, cabinet, metering, antennas and light infrastructure can cost around $30,000, that cost can triple when additional asphalt patching, street shutdowns, sidewalk repair, landscaping and auxiliary building requirements are added to the mix. 

A recent Inside Towers article quoted Carr saying the “small cell deployment process is broken” with plans to eliminate or greatly reduce historic and environmental reviews of the pocket sites. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 15, 2018

CCA Wants FCC to Stay AT&T/FiberTower License Transfer

UPDATE The Competitive Carriers Association opposes the transfer of millimeter-wave (“mmW”) spectrum licenses from FiberTower to AT&T Mobility Spectrum LLC. CCA asked the full Commission to stay the decision.
CCA says the agency approved the transaction based on incomplete and flawed public interest analysis, and challenged the Commission to put a hold on its consent order while it reviews the decision of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. “Millimeter wave spectrum offers tremendous opportunities for carriers as they move toward deploying next generation technologies,” said CCA President/CEO Steve Berry. “Rather than giving AT&T a head start advantage with FiberTower’s valuable mmW licenses, while providing FiberTower an incredible windfall for spectrum that has lied fallow for years, the Commission should make the terminated licenses available to any qualified applicant through auction.” 

A day after the bureau okayed the license transfer last month, AT&T closed on its $207 million acquisition of Fiber Tower, giving it 478 licenses of millimeter wave spectrum it intends to use to roll out 5G services later this year. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Telecom Reps Tell Congress How to Fix FCC’s Broadband Maps

CCA’s Steve Berry (left) and CTIA’s Brad Gillen, holding a small cell, 
testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

Wireless industry representatives told lawmakers Tuesday better maps are needed to determine where broadband connectivity exists and where it doesn’t, especially now that Congress is considering effective ways to close the digital divide as part of the President’s infrastructure plan.

The Chairman of the Senate Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), said the current FCC maps showing broadband connectivity are “utterly worthless.” He asked why the data is “so wrong.” Continue Reading