The FCC has released a broadband deployment proceeding, which proposes to speed up the deployment of DAS and small cells through an exemption from the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The proceeding shows that the commission believes the technologies align with its spectrum management goals.
“The increasing demand for advanced wireless services and greater wireless bandwidth is driving a need for additional infrastructure deployment and new infrastructure technologies. To meet localized needs for coverage or increased capacity in outdoor and indoor environments, many wireless providers are turning in part to small cell technologies and DAS,” the FCC wrote in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. “Because these cells are significantly smaller in coverage area than traditional macrocells, networks that incorporate small cell technology can take advantage of greater re-use of scarce wireless frequencies, thus greatly increasing spectral efficiency and data capacity within the network footprint.”
Rules concerning environmental review of wireless deployment were developed before the advent of small cells and, therefore, reflect environmental concerns caused by cell towers. The FCC Commissioners asked whether the environmental review process may be unnecessary given the minimal effects on the environment of small cells. Additionally, deployments under National Historic Preservation Act will be discussed.
Last year PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association asked the FCC to categorically exclude DAS and small cell deployments from all environmental processing, including both NEPA and Section 106 processing, with the exception of compliance with RF emission exposure limits. The FCC’s positive response to that proposal, which would speed up small cell deployment, was applauded by Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of PCIA.
“They hit the nail on the head by acknowledging that common-sense reforms are needed to modernize historic and environmental review processes for the deployment of DAS and small cells. They recognize we can’t treat every DAS node like a 500-foot cell tower,” Adelstein said.
Russell Fox, a member of the law firm Mintz Levin, said all of the proposals, if approved, would help the FCC keep up with advancements in wireless technology.
“A lot of this is in recognition of the fact that the tower industry is different today than it was 10 to 20 years ago,” Fox said. “We have got a lot more small cell deployment that doesn’t raise the same concerns as big towers. We also have more temporary towers. The FCC is keeping up with technology and the way wireless networks are deployed today.”