October 16, 2014 – At tomorrow’s open meeting, the FCC is slated to issue a wireless infrastructure order aimed at streamlining regulations, speeding wireless network deployment.
In particular, the FCC is expected to clarify the rules for upgrading technology on existing infrastructure and streamline the environmental and historic preservation review processes for DAS and small cells. The importance to broadband deployment of defining attachment rights on existing infrastructure cannot be underestimated, according to Jonathan Adelstein, CEO, PCIA – the Wireless Infrastructure Association.
“The Oct. 17 Order is like the Super Bowl of regulatory proceedings for those of us in the wireless infrastructure industry,” Adelstein said. “This will be a huge accomplishment. They are getting ahead of the curve on this, paving the way for continued enormous capital investments to deploy the amount of infrastructure it is going to take to meet rising consumer demands for data.”
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski began the process to improve the speed of broadband deployment, and Interim Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn put out an NPRM last September. The proposed Report and Order was authored by current Chairman Tom Wheeler, who Adelstein commended for “sealing the deal.”
“Policymakers are increasingly recognizing the key role that infrastructure plays in delivering wireless broadband as an indispensable part of the solution,” he said. “This is great work done by the chairman and commissioners of the FCC. This proceeding is coming to a conclusion in a rapid period of time.”
A Common Sense Approach to Sharing Existing Infrastructure
The FCC’s “shot clock” order, which sets time periods for application siting reviews, is expected to be strengthened to reflect Section 6409(a) of the tax act of 2012. Ben Moreland, president and CEO of Crown Castle International, noted that collocation is good for wireless competition, accommodating new carriers in the market quickly and cost-effectively.
“By further defining Section 6409 to be more specific, it helps the law do what it was intended to do, which at its core is about sharing the existing infrastructure,” Moreland said.
Moreland emphasized that he believes the tower industry has already received benefits from Section 6409 of the legislation, which he said has been broadly adopted at the state and local levels. In fact, 11 states have passed 13 bills to streamline broadband deployment.
“The order is about reinforcing the work around Section 6409, which has already been a big help to our industry and has received a lot of cooperation at the state and municipal level,” he said. “It is further definition about areas of the law where there was some ambiguity.”
The order is expected to provide further definition of what would amount to a “significant change” proposed by a carrier to an existing structure, which would prompt a zoning review. PCIA urged the FCC to use existing definitions of small cells and DAS already in use in historic and environmental regulations.
“We need these terms to be defined,” Adelstein said. “We can’t afford to have these deployments caught up in red tape. It is a national priority. Any time that is spent fighting over a deployment on a tower that has already been zoned is a waste of resources for both the municipality and the company involved.”
PCIA hopes the order will produce greater certainty in the FCC’s overall processes, spurring increased broadband investments. The association’s leadership and membership have worked closely with the FCC in crafting the order.
“We hope the order will eliminate the uncertainty and unnecessary cost and delay around future investment in broadband networks,” Moreland said.
“Currently, $100 billion has been invested in infrastructure by the three largest tower companies. We have built a competitive, efficient model for infrastructure that encourages competition in the wireless industry. The FCC has been a big advocate for our model.”