The FCC wants to ensure that wireless companies don’t hit any unnecessary hurdles thrown in the way by state or local governments as they build out their 5G networks. As it works today, carriers typically have to apply locally within towns, cities, and states to install new cell sites. Local government can impede progress by denying permission to put up new sites for any number of reasons. Since future 5G will require more cells in more locations, the FCC believes the process needs to change. A new Declaratory Ruling and Report and Order seeks to establish new guidelines. For example, the FCC wants to set limits on the fees that can be charged by municipalities for applications, processing the applications, and adjusting the right-of-way around such sites. The FCC also wants to shorten the shot clocks afforded to local governments to weigh such applications. For example, it wants to see a 60-day approval window when carriers seek to adjust an existing cell site and a 90-day window for installing new cell sites. The Order will codify the existing 90 and 150 day shot clocks for larger wireless facility deployments. Local governments that don’t comply with the new clocks will be presumed to be denying the applications and will need to have legit reasons prepared. “This is part of a national strategy to promote the timely buildout of this new infrastructure across the country by eliminating regulatory impediments that unnecessarily add delays and costs to bringing advanced wireless services to the public,” argued the FCC. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wirless are all in various stages of building their 5G networks.
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