On Wednesday, by a 3-1 vote, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a policy that will impose new condensed timelines on state and local governments in the siting of small cell wireless facilities.  The FCC’s action also limits regulatory fees and leasing rates that states and local governments may assess for the placement of small cell facilities, as well as restrict the aesthetic review and requirements attached to the siting of these facilitates.  

This Declaratory Ruling and Third Report & Order (Order) will go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.  RCRC submitted a letter of opposition to this proposal last week, joining the National Association of Counties (NACo) and other organizations in urging the FCC to disapprove this invasive policy that eliminates the ability of local governments to recoup funding for services and limits permissible local land use planning and review.  Additionally, RCRC refuted the arguments made by the telecommunication industry that capping leasing and permit fees in all jurisdictions will incentivize more building in a high-cost markets (i.e. rural areas).  Furthermore, the Order prohibits any “in-kind” requirements by local governments upon the telecommunications industry, such as a lower placement fee for facility siting in an urban area in exchange for deployment in an under-served area.

Challenges to the FCC’s decision are expected. The FCC’s press release can be accessed here.