By Will Johnson – SVP, Federal Regulatory & Legal Affairs
With today’s vote, the FCC took a big step to ensure America is 5G ready by removing unnecessary regulatory barriers to wireless broadband deployment. The FCC’s order replaces cumbersome environmental and historic preservation rules designed for much larger towers with more streamlined processes for today’s small cell wireless facilities. It will pave the way for the U.S. to lead the world in 5G, which will benefit American consumers and the economy.
Today’s action to tailor FCC regulation to small cells will eliminate unnecessary costs and delays without jeopardizing the environment, historic properties, or legitimate tribal interests. The previous rules were adopted more than 10 years ago for large 100-200 foot towers. The reviews required by those rules delay small cell deployment on average by 75 days, and impose steadily increasing costs that represent over 25 percent of the cost of each small cell. Today’s order recognizes that small cells, which can be as small as a backpack, blend easily into the environment and are far less likely to affect the environment and historic properties. In fact, data show that historic preservation reviews for wireless facilities – including macro towers -- over a three year period affected a tribal property only .3 percent of the time. So eliminating reviews for the smallest wireless facilities poses no threat to historic properties.
We applaud the FCC for taking this important step today to remove significant and unnecessary regulatory obstacles for small cells and look forward to working with the Commission in the coming months to address other unnecessary state and local barriers to wireless broadband deployment. With smart policies like these to promote 5G, U.S. carriers are poised to invest heavily to deploy 5G networks, promoting hundreds of billions of dollars in new economic activity and creating millions of new jobs. It will also bring transformative new capabilities like smart communities, e-health, connected cars, and smart farming to American consumers and businesses.