The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) handed a victory to U.S. wireless operators that are racing to deploy 5G. The agency announced yesterday that it has established time limits for local officials to make decisions regarding small cell deployments in cities. And it also put limits on how much city officials can charge operators to deploy 5G small cells.
Specifically, the FCC established the following guidelines:
- State and local governments must charge fees that are based upon how much it costs to process and manage applications and small cell deployments in rights-of-way, but they are prohibited from charging excessive fees.
- Local officials have 60 days to approve or reject a request from a wireless carrier for a small cell being added to an existing structure and 90 days when the service provider wants to put up a new small cell.
Not surprisingly, many of the trade groups associated with the wireless industry praised the FCC’s rules. CTIA, the trade group that represents the large U.S. wireless operators, said that the decision will “promote billions in investment and significant job creation.”
Likewise, the Consumer Technology Association’s Michael Petrocone, SVP of government and regulatory affairs, said that the FCC decision to “streamline small cell deployment helps keep America in the lead in the global race for 5G.”
But local governments were not pleased. The National Association of Counties and the National League of Cities issued a joint statement saying that the FCC’s decision ignores concerns from cities and counties, noting that more than 100 local governments from 22 states filed comments in opposition to the rules.
“The FCC’s impractical actions will significantly impede local governments’ ability to serve as trustees of public property, safety, and well-being,” said the statement. “The decision will transfer significant local public resources to private companies without securing any guarantee of public benefit in return.”
The FCC’s rules come at a critical time for U.S. operators. Verizon is set to launch its pre-standard fixed 5G service in four markets on Monday. AT&T has said it will launch mobile 5G in 12 markets by year-end. And Sprint and T-Mobile have both said they plan to launch mobile 5G in 2019.
This isn’t the first time the FCC has ruled in favor of wireless carriers when it comes to deploying small cells in cities. In March, the FCC ruled that small cell site deployments are exempt from the historical and environmental assessment reviews that are currently required before a wireless operator deploys a new tower site.
A Verizon small cell in a Denver neighborhood.