A draft Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), if adopted, would clarify the agency’s 2014 rules governing the process state and local governments use to review deployments of new antenna and equipment on existing wireless infrastructure and seek comment on a related proposal concerning excavations for such expansions. The clarifications, which are meant to speed the deployment of 5G infrastructure, largely mirror those sought in a pair of petitions for declaratory ruling filed by the Wireless Infrastructure Association (“WIA”) and CTIA in the fall of 2019. Those petitions allege that despite the 2014 rules, states and localities continue to erect barriers that slow their ability to add new facilities to existing infrastructure. In comments on the petitions, states and localities contend that they are substantially complying with the rules and that any delays are caused by applicants or their contractors. However, the FCC apparently plans to move forward with adopting most, though not all, of the industry group clarification requests.

For those who have been following the FCC over the past three years under Chairman Pai’s leadership, the draft item builds on the agency’s multifaceted effort to pave a clear path for the private sector to deploy 5G technologies. Prior efforts include repurposing low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum for mobile wireless operations, reducing the circumstances under which wireless infrastructure deployments must undergo federal historic preservation and environmental reviews, and preempting states and localities from using review processes to slow the deployment of small cells.

The agency is set to vote on the item at its June 9, 2020, open meeting.


Continue Reading Proposed Wireless Infrastructure Item Clarifies Rules Concerning Local Reviews to Speed 5G Deployments

Among the items being considered at the upcoming April 12, 2019 Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) open meeting is possible regulatory forbearance of certain legacy regulatory and structural requirements applicable to Bell Operating Companies (“BOCs”), price cap local exchange carriers (“LECs”), and independent rate-of-return carriers (“RoR carriers”). Acting on a nearly year-old USTelecom petition, the FCC’s draft Memorandum Opinion and Order (“Order”) proposes to forbear from enforcement of three regulatory requirements: (i) that independent RoR carriers offer in-region long distance service through a separate affiliate (“structural separations”); (ii) that BOCs and price cap LECs do not discriminate in service provisioning intervals and that they file special access provisioning reports; and (iii) that BOCs provide nondiscriminatory access to poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way (collectively, “pole attachments”). However, the draft Order declines to decide on USTelecom’s request for forbearance from certain network unbundling and resale requirements. The Commission’s deferral on the unbundled network elements (“UNE”)/resale issue is not surprising in light of the significant industry and consumer opposition to this aspect of USTelecom’s petition. With the exception of the few comments supporting USTelecom’s petition, the vast majority of comments were relatively silent regarding the other forbearance requests. If adopted, the draft Order will be effective upon release.

Continue Reading FCC Considering Partial Grant of Regulatory Forbearance for Incumbent Carriers

The FCC plans to take major action to speed the deployment of small wireless broadband facilities to support 5G technologies at its next meeting, scheduled for September 26, 2018. The FCC’s draft Declaratory Ruling and Order may significantly tilt the balance of power in favor of wireless broadband providers over state and local governments concerning access to rights-of-way and deployment costs. The draft item highlights the FCC’s recent emphasis on spurring the creation of next-generation wireless networks and follows recent moves to exempt certain deployments from environmental/historic preservation reviews and prohibit moratoria on infrastructure projects. Under its latest proposal, the FCC would: (1) restrict the types of fees assessed on deployments; (2) limit the aesthetic requirements imposed on deployments; and (3) establish “shot clocks” on responding to deployment requests. The action is likely to result in legal challenges from state and/or local governments. You will find more about the FCC’s anticipated reforms as well as potential Congressional action on this issue after the jump.

Continue Reading FCC Plans to Ease Access to Rights-of-Way for Wireless Deployments

iStock_000006131068MediumFederal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai marked his first open meeting as Chairman by announcing a new Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (Committee), which is intended to advise the FCC on accelerating the deployment of high-speed internet access in communities across the country.  Designed to make recommendations to reduce and remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment, the Committee will develop specific reforms to the FCC’s pole attachment rules, identifying unreasonable regulatory barriers to broadband deployment, ways to encourage local governments to adopt deployment-friendly policies, and other reforms within the Commission’s authority, including provisions under the Middle Class Tax Cut and Job Relief Act of 2012.
Continue Reading FCC Chairman Pai Announces Creation of a Broadband Deployment Advisory Council

iStock_000000295237LargeWith both Congress and the Administration focused on streamlining federal permitting and promoting Dig Once policies, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published updated rules for access to rights-of-way (ROW) on Indian Lands, including the deployment of communications infrastructure.  The new rules replace the existing regulations that were promulgated over 40 years ago and last updated over 30 years ago. Currently, DOI holds roughly 56 million acres of land in trust for both Indian Tribes and individual Indians, which gives it authority over granting ROWs.  The new rules “reflect modern requirements for rights-of-way and the need for faster timelines and a more transparent process for BIA approval.”  These new rules apply to ROWs granted on or after December 21, 2015.  For ROWs granted prior to December 21, 2015, the substantive provisions of the rule will not apply; however, the procedural provisions of the updated rule will apply retroactively, except where the procedural provisions conflict with the ROW grant or authorizing statute.

Continue Reading Bureau of Indian Affairs New Rights-of-Way Rules Provide Clarity and Certainty to Communications Providers