The Federal Communications Commission today adopted new small cell approval rules aimed at streamlining the wireless infrastructure siting review process to facilitate the deployment of next-generation wireless facilities.
According to the FCC, the actions will reduce regulatory impediments to deploying small cells needed for 5G and help to expand the reach of 5G for faster, more reliable wireless service and other advanced wireless technologies to more Americans.
In developing the rules, the agency said that it consulted with a wide range of communities to determine the appropriate steps needed to enable the rapid and efficient deployment of 5G wireless networks throughout the United States.
The Order focuses on ensuring the Commission’s rules properly address the differences between large and small wireless facilities, while also the treatment of small cell deployments.
Small Cell Approval Rules
Specifically, the Order:
- Excludes small wireless facilities deployed on non-Tribal lands from National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, concluding that these facilities are not “undertakings” or “major federal actions.” Small wireless facilities deployments continue to be subject to currently applicable state and local government approval requirements.
- Clarifies and makes improvements to the process for Tribal participation in Section 106 historic preservation reviews for large wireless facilities where NHPA/NEPA review is still required.
- Removes the requirement that applicants file environmental assessments solely due to the location of a proposed facility in a floodplain, as long as certain conditions are met.
- Establishes timeframes for the FCC to act on environmental assessments.