Local governments responding to an FCC public notice (PN) on ways in which the FCC can induce local officials to expedite the approval of wireless towers and cell sites are urging the agency to proceed with caution, warning that adoption of a “one-size-fits-all” approach ignores variations in state law, geography, community character, local budgets, staff resources and many other factors that impact the siting decisions of local governments.
Issued by the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau in December, the PN solicits stakeholder input on improvements to local government tower siting processes. Specifically, the PN requests comment on what constitutes a reasonable period of time for local governments to act on wireless siting requests and what role (if any) the FCC should play in expediting local government action on such requests. Other issues teed up for comment include (1) the interpretation of “fair and reasonable compensation” of local governments by wireless carriers under Section 253(c) of the 1934 Communications Act and (2) the definition of “competitively neutral and non-discriminatory” as including local licensing or franchise charges that do not exceed those imposed on other providers for similar access.
Recommending that the FCC exercise “extreme caution” as carriers nationwide enable widespread deployment of small cell infrastructure required for fifth-generation wireless services, the City of Henderson, Kentucky said it opposes a “federal one-size-fits-all preemption of local siting authority” given the many differences among communities that influence local decision-making. Similarly, the National League of Cities joined several other local government advocacy groups in stressing that wireless deployment “must carefully balance the needs of industry with the public health and safety concerns of . . . communities,” adding: “it is impossible that a one-size-fits all regulatory scheme can adequately take into account the various needs and interests of all communities.”