FCC Commissioner: “It’s time to go back to the drawing board”
In an effort to accelerate small cell deployments in support of U.S. 5G leadership, the Federal Communications Commission last year adopted an order meant to streamline the review and permitting process associated with small cell site builds. In an Aug. 9 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided to vacate some aspects of the FCC order, calling the “deregulation of small cells…arbitrary and capricious.”
A coalition of tribal nations petitioners argued against the FCC order removed review processes outlined by the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Additionally, the FCC order banned local regulations meant to prohibit wireless infrastructure installation; standardized the applicable fee structure; established a 60-day shot clock for attaching small cells to existing structures and 90 days for new builds; and set “modest guardrails on other municipal rules that may prohibit service.”
The court specifically vacated the historic and environmental review aspects of the FCC’s order, with the court focusing on a scale of deployment the FCC projected at 800,000 small cells by 2026. “The scale of the deployment the FCC seeks to facilitate, particularly given its exemption of small cells that require new constructions, makes it impossible on this record to credit the claim that small cell deregulation will ‘leave little to no environmental footprint.’”
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr championed the small cell efforts. Carr, on Twitter, said he’s happy the court “affirmed key 5G infrastructure reforms…including our elimination of costly upfront fees [and]our acceleration of review periods. Look forward to reviewing those reforms the DC Circuit did not affirm.”
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, on the other hand, took the court decision to mean “the agency tasked with the future of connectivity [the FCC]didn’t get it right. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and do better.”
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