By J. Sharpe Smith
Less than a year after he outlined his plan to expedite state and local zoning processes for wireless infrastructure, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai gave an impassioned keynote speech at this week’s Wireless Infrastructure Show, calling on the Commission to move forward on his proposals.
“Back then, I said that time was of the essence,” Pai said. “I’m pleased that my colleagues agreed. The time for deciding is here. In my view, we should bring the same urgency to this task that has animated our recent push to make additional spectrum available for mobile broadband. The Commission should commit to adopting rules within the next six months.”
Pai criticized local officials for treating modifications with the same processes that are used for new towers. “Byzantine state and local rules often make it impossible to make even minor modifications to wireless facilities,” Pai said.
Pai’s plan includes streamlining the regulatory treatment of DAS and small cells, curbing local moratoriums, and modifying the shot-clock rules.
Pai proposed to clarify that local moratoriums on the approval of new wireless infrastructure violate section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act, which states that applications should be processed within a reasonable period of time.
“And now some cities are trying to evade those limits by adopting moratoriums on the approval of new wireless infrastructure,” he said, noting that south Florida cities such as Tamarac and Hallandale have used the tactic in recent years.
The FCC’s shot clock, which gives local zoning authorities 90 days to act on collocation requests and 150 days for new antenna site requests, needs to be beefed up with a deemed-granted clause for applications that are not acted upon in the specified time period.
“I took this step after hearing that 760 applications had been pending with states and municipalities for more than a year and that more than 180 had been pending for at least three years,” Pai said. “For how many years must a company wait before it’s allowed to deploy?”
As the FCC considers the public’s reply comments, which were submitted two months ago, Pai said he hoped the Commission would place a shot clock on its own deliberations.