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GMA Sends Concerns to the FCC

September 26, 2018
The Federal Communications Commission is considering a proposed order regarding state and local governance of small cell (short range) wireless infrastructure deployment. GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson has served as a member of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) and has written a letter of concern to the FCC.
 
Those concerns include:
 
Nothing in the proposed FCC order results in achieving the overarching goal of the BDAC to stimulate nationwide deployment and bridge the economic gap in remotely populated areas to make investment financially feasible. 
The goal of the BDAC is to recommend ways to facilitate broadband deployment nationwide, to address underserved and unserved areas of the country. Nothing in this order furthers that goal. Rather, the commission has chosen the best interests of the industry over that of the public. The wireless industry itself has acknowledged that small cells (short range) are not the solution for rural America. The technology is not conducive to use in sparsely populated areas. With small cells having a limited range, it is an urban solution but not economical for rural areas. Subsidizing costs for wireless providers in Atlanta or New York City will not result in bringing this technology to rural America.
 
The FCC should not require local governments and local citizens to subsidize one of the most powerful industries with no guarantee whatsoever that it will provide broadband services to all of America. Other ideas have been suggested to attain the goal of universal deployment, such as AT&T’s Project AirGig and communications services fees and we believe additional focus should be given to those solutions rather than advancing policies that raise the profit of private companies at the expense of local taxpayers and consumers.

 
A one-size-fits all approach to compensating local governments for the use of taxpayer-funded infrastructure and rights-of-way.
The FCC order would implement a $270 fee per small cell site, which does not take into consideration the variety of land values across the United States or the value of land in dense urban areas vs rural, sparsely populated areas. The FCC Rates and Fees Working Group, which examined rate information from 1,200 local agreements nationwide, found the the median fee is significantly higher than the proposed order. The rates and fees group’s on-going research and recommendations are ignored in the proposed FCC order.
 
The order points to the 20 states with state-wide rights-of-way agreements without noting that half of those agreements do not include local rights-of-way, or that 11 other states have considered such legislation, but those bills were not passed or were vetoed.

 
A “shot clock” that sets an artificially short period of time for cities to respond to collocation requests (the ability of telecommunications companies to put more than one short range cell on the same pole or building).
The proposed shot clock timelines are inconsistent with the BDAC’s own Model Code for Municipalities Working Group’s adopted code. Importantly, the working group’s recommendations were adopted by unanimous vote by both the working group and the full BDAC. The working group and the BDAC are comprised of an overwhelming majority of industry representatives, who by their vote, supported more reasonable overall shot clock timelines.
 
The proposed order designates any preexisting structure, regardless of its design or suitability for attaching wireless equipment, as eligible for this new expedited 60 day shot clock. Also, importantly, while the order mandates shot clocks for local governments, there is no corresponding requirement for deployment of services. If there is such an urgent demand for permit review, there must be a similar demand for deployment.

 
The order ignores community standards and aesthetic considerations
Cities establish aesthetic standards based on input from their residents to address unique local concerns. Aesthetic characteristics are unique to each community and help establish a distinct “sense of place”. These locally-developed guidelines have a direct bearing on a city’s quality of life and economic development efforts, and ultimately impact property value, jobs, and residential and business tax levels in a community.

 
The order removes the public from the process
Federal guidance cannot adequately address the unique concerns of each community in America. The FCC’s Order effectively removes public input from citizens and taxpayers to local elected officials and grants this power to an unelected federal agency.