March 1, 2018
A Welcome FCC Proposal to Jumpstart Wireless Investment .
Yesterday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr announced the agency would propose modernizing key policies to ensure wireless infrastructure can be more rapidly and efficiently deployed.
This is big news with major implications for America’s race to 5G leadership.
Specifically, Commissioner Carr said the FCC will make clear that small cell installations are not federal “undertakings” under the National Historic Preservation Act or “major federal actions” under the National Environmental Policy Act. As part of this reform, the FCC would also update historic reviews for other wireless deployments and adopt a shot clock for the agency’s own environmental review procedures.
This approach, up for a vote at the FCC’s March 22 open meeting, will more effectively target and streamline reviews that were designed with large cell towers in mind.
But wireless networks and infrastructure have evolved over the past two decades. New antennas the size of pizza boxes, called small cells, are key to supporting 5G.
However, too many rules remain designed for 200-foot towers—not today’s small cells.
Commissioner Carr’s proposed reform is critical for three reasons.
One, Americans are using more mobile data. Two, more wireless infrastructure is necessary to meet that demand and enable smart communities and the Internet of Things. Three—and perhaps most importantly—the U.S. is in a global race to build the next generation of networks, 5G.
Being first with the next generation of wireless is essential to maintaining our lead in the broader wireless ecosystem. And 5G leadership will help keep the next generation of developers—whether for apps, operating systems, augmented and virtual reality, or artificial intelligence—focused on the U.S.
Today, however, installing modern wireless infrastructure requires multiple, often duplicative reviews. That’s because the FCC has historically applied NHPA and NEPA to many wireless deployments.
The time has come for a change. That’s why we support Commissioner Carr’s proposal.
Reviews required under decades-old interpretations hinder wireless deployments with excessive and increasing costs and unnecessary delays—a dynamic especially true in rural areas with challenging business cases.
In fact, a single wireless provider projects NHPA/NEPA compliance costs totaling $45 million this year alone. That’s wireless industry investment dollars that could be going directly to more network improvements.
Eliminating unnecessary reviews will mean tremendous time and cost savings that will spur job creation and boost network investment, without impacting the environment or historic properties as these federal reviews will continue to happen when appropriate. And accelerating 5G deployment timelines will add billions to the U.S. economy.
This reform builds on the FCC’s earlier bipartisan efforts to modernize historic preservation policies and its current efforts to ensure that America is 5G ready. The FCC has already recognized that small cells have little or no impact on environmentally sensitive or historic sites.
If the agency follows through, America’s economy and consumers will win—and the U.S. will be well positioned to win the race to 5G.
The wireless industry is ready to invest $275 billion to deploy 5G, according to Accenture. 5G will create 3 million new jobs nationwide and generate $500 billion for America’s economy.
For small cells, that’s a pretty big impact.