FCC’s Carr touts support for small cell proposal from local officials

Ahead of the FCC’s vote this week geared to hasten the deployment of small cells around the country, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr pointed to support for his proposal from officials across more than a dozen states.

Carr’s efforts are essentially an attempt to counter criticism of his proposed rules by other local officials as an attempt by the federal government to overstep local authority over the fees and timelines associated with installing small cells in neighborhoods across the United States.

“More than several dozen mayors, local officials, and state lawmakers have called on the FCC to streamline the rules governing small cell buildout,” Carr said in a release from the FCC (PDF). “They want the FCC to build on the commonsense reforms adopted in state legislatures and town councils across the country so that every community—from big city to small town—gets a fair shot at next-generation connectivity. As they put it, FCC action will help spur investment and infrastructure buildout in their communities, while helping the U.S. win the race to 5G. I am glad to see the support from this diverse group of state and local officials.”

In the release, Carr highlighted statements from a variety of state legislators and officials, including Mayor Scott Neisler of Kings Mountain, North Carolina: “The North Carolina General Assembly has enacted legislation to encourage the deployment of small cell technology to limit exorbitant fees which can siphon off capital from further expansion projects. I was encouraged to see the FCC taking similar steps to enact policies that help clear the way for the essential investments that will promote necessary upgrades to network infrastructure to ensure that Kings Mountain remains a great place to both live and do business.”

The release from the FCC came just hours after Bloomberg published an article on the issue, citing comments from a variety of state and city officials arguing against the FCC’s proposed rules.

“We are shocked,” Samir Saini, New York City’s commissioner of information technology, told Bloomberg. The proposed action is “an unnecessary and unauthorized gift to the telecommunications industry and its lobbyists” and an effort “to subsidize a trillion dollar industry under the guise of helping broadband deployment.”

RELATED: Major U.S. cities revolt against FCC’s proposed small cell deployment rules

Cities speaking up on the issue range from Philadelphia to San Francisco to Chicago to Lakewood, California, and Yuma, Arizona. The filings by the cities generally follow the same format and present the same basic arguments:

  • The FCC’s proposed new collocation shot clock category “is too extreme.”

  • The FCC’s proposed definition of “effective prohibition” is overly broad.

  • The FCC’s proposed recurring fee structure is an “unreasonable overreach that will harm local policy innovation,” and the fees are not “fair and reasonable” compensation.

“While promoting broadband technology and development remains an essential City initiative, it is critically important for municipalities such as Philadelphia to balance these goals with the ability to regulate and manage the public ROW [right of way],” the city of Philadelphia wrote to the FCC this week (PDF). “The City’s ability to manage its ROW is essential in order to effectively protect the health, safety and welfare of the City’s over 1.5 million residents and 43 million annual visitors.”

The FCC will vote Wednesday on rules aimed at limiting the fees localities can charge, tightening deadlines for small cell deployment requests, and discouraging deals between cities and wireless carriers like the one San Jose inked with Verizon and AT&T. AT&T, Verizon and other network operators are keen for the FCC to approve the rules, as they argue it will make it easier for them to deploy small cells and other network equipment that will improve their networks as they move to 5G.

Although the FCC’s proposed rules will likely be supported by Carr and other Republican commissioners, others may vote against it. For example, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in June that “the fastest and most resilient way to broadband deployment is with a community on board. That’s because picking fights with cities and states promises to yield little more than a fast trip to the courts.”