The FCC will vote later this month on new small cell rules aimed at hastening deployment of small cell wireless network infrastructure. Among other things, the FCC small cell rules would limit what municipalities can charge for reviewing small cell deployments.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr previewed the rules in an address at the Indiana Statehouse today, where he praised the small cell rules that state and 19 others already have put in place. Carr credited Indiana’s rules with helping to attract two wireless carriers to include the city of Indianapolis in their initial 5G deployments. Small cells are expected to be a critical element of 5G.

Although Carr did not mention the carriers by name, both AT&T and Verizon have announced Indianapolis 5G deployments.

Proposed FCC Small Cell Rules
In his speech, Carr outlined the four key elements of the proposed small cell rules, including:

  • Preventing certain types of local requirements that “can materially inhibit of effectively prohibit small cell deployment.”
  • Allowing local governments to charge wireless providers for the costs of reviewing small cell deployment but proposing that fees represent a “reasonable approximation” of local governments’ costs and providing specific fee amounts above which the commission would presume fees to be unlawful.
  • Establishing “shot clocks” requiring local governments to conclude approval processes within 60 days for small cells being added to existing infrastructures and within 90 days when a provider wants to put up a new small cell pole. Approval requests would not be automatically granted if the local government fails to make a judgement before the deadline, however.
  • Local governments would be allowed to continue to require “reasonable aesthetic reviews” of proposed small cell deployments.

“At the federal level, we have learned from the forward-looking legislation that local leaders have enacted in 20 states and counting,” said Carr in his address. “We have been encouraged by their leadership, resulting investment, and new mobile broadband in their communities. My plan builds on those grassroots, commonsense reforms and extends regulatory relief throughout the country so that no community will be left behind.”

An FCC press release also referred to the proposed small cell rules as “Carr’s plan.”

Not everyone has supported FCC efforts to set rules for small cell deployments, however.

Earlier this year, 36 mayors and elected local leaders representing broadband advocacy group Next Century Cities sent a letter to the FCC arguing for local authority in setting small cell rules.

“[W]e feel that some commissioners have wrongly cast local governments as a main barrier to next-generation wireless deployments, using us as a scapegoat for larger issues,” the letter stated.

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