FCC Com. Michael O’Rielly blasted efforts to impede the rollout of small cells, such as the use of Florida municipalities’ use of moratoria, during a meeting of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) on Friday, in Washington, DC.
O’Rielly referenced an FCC filing by UNITI Group that identified 44 moratoria in the state of Florida on small cell deployments in the public rights of way, saying they are “unbelievable” and “cannot be allowed to stand.”
“The barriers being imposed are not caused by a failure to collaborate, but a failure to heed to current law and a resistance to allow citizens access to modern communications unless certain localities impose their will or extract bounties from providers,” O’Rielly said.
O’Rielly said problem of local governments setting up regulatory environments that are hostile to small cells is getting worse.
“The barriers preventing providers from bringing fixed and wireless broadband throughout our nation have increased despite the existence of this committee,” he said in prepared remarks.
Supportive small cell legislation being passed in the states doesn’t seem to be helping much, either. Florida’s State legislature passed The Infrastructure Deployment Act, which makes it unlawful for localities to prohibit small cells. However, a clause that allows them to adopt ordinances concerning “objective design standards,” has led to unnecessary and illegal moratoria, according to an ex parte presentation filed with the FCC by UNITI Group.
“Despite federal law to the contrary, many localities have implemented moratoria, in name or in fact, on installing small cells in the public rights-of-way,” UNITI said. “Even when local officials – like county commissioners, city councils, staff, and attorneys – are provided copies of relevant federal rulings prohibiting moratoria, these parties feign ignorance or express their intention to violate federal law.”
O’Rielly also pointed the finger at the City of San Jose, whose mayor Sam Liccardo is on the BDAC.
“[According to] the recent paper by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the mayor’s team is seeking to extract high rents and fees for merely trying to attach small cells to utility poles,” O’Rielly said.
O’Rielly has learned of an effort by East Coast cities to coordinate the fees and other requirements that are imposed on small cells.
“The ideas being bandied about were head scratching: from neutral platform requirements to mandating sensor attachments to every small cell,” he said. “There seems to be no limit to the creativity of those imposing barriers to deployment.”