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Published on Friday, January 20, 2017

FCC threatens to limit local land use authority on wireless siting

We have been reporting on the efforts of Verizon’s effort to introduce legislation in our state legislature that could potentially lead to loss of local control.  There’s also a threat at the federal level.

Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a public notice seeking comment on two topics that could shape the future of city control over their rights-of-way. The FCC's Wireless Bureau requested public comment on how to streamline the deployment of small wireless facilities, primarily through potential changes to local land-use ordinances, and comment generally on a petition filed by infrastructure company Mobilitie regarding local government rules and procedures.

The public notice raises several major concerns for cities. The first is that the FCC wishes to use this proceeding to reexamine the facts of the decisions made in its 2009 and 2014 rulemakings on local wireless facilities siting, questioning whether the evidence presented by local governments during those proceedings is still valid. Specifically, the notice questions the amount of time needed by local governments to process wireless siting applications for small-cell facilities, particularly when submitted in large quantities. The notice requests feedback on streamlining local regulations when similar applications are submitted as batches. The notice also questions the amount and structure of fees charged by local governments for applications and access to rights-of-way.

The National League of Cities successfully filed a joint motion for an extension of the comment period. The revised comment deadline is now March 8, 2017, with a reply comment deadline of April 7, 2017.

NLC will comment on this notice, in collaboration with other local government groups and state municipal leagues, and is calling on cities nationwide to help craft our response. Click here to provide important data on your city's wireless facility siting process by January 27 and to request a comment template for your city to use in providing your own comment.

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