October 3, 2018
The Federal Communications Commission on September 26 approved a landmark order that will transform how municipalities process and charge wireless carriers and infrastructure developers for small cell permits. The Streamlining Deployment of Next Generation Wireless Infrastructure Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order limits what municipalities can charge for each small cell placed in the public right of way and sets time limits for processing these permits.
Under the new FCC order, municipalities will need to abide by a strict cap on fees and processing time. Jurisdictions will have 60 days to process a permit for attachment to an existing pole, and 90 days when the wireless provider is seeking to install a new pole. Fees will be limited to a “reasonable approximation” of the jurisdiction’s “objectively reasonable costs” for maintaining the rights-of-way, which must be no higher than fees for similar entities, which the FCC deemed to be limited to $270 annually per small cell. The new rule applies to all small cells, including those installments currently subject to an existing agreement.
Litigation on the new order is anticipated. The City of Seattle has announced its intention to challenge the order and other jurisdictions will likely join the challenge. Barring a judicial stay of the order, it will go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The FCC’s order will help wireless infrastructure providers meet the rapidly growing demand for wireless data and support the rollout of 5G technology. The benefits of this will be felt by communities and all users of wireless technology and will ensure that our network can handle all data demands, including 9-1-1 calls and public safety, remote medicine and health care applications, smart city connectivity, and the rapidly growing sphere of the Internet of Things.