On May 29th, House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to streamline the approval process for upgrading existing wireless facilities. The letter asks Mr. Wheeler for clarification of Section 6409(a) – the spectrum provisions of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. That section was intended to speed the approval of eligible requests for new wireless broadband facilities.
“We urge you to take swift action to clarify the terms of Section 6409(a) consistent with the intent of the statute to deliver the benefits of wireless broadband access to all Americans. To ensure that 6409(a) achieves its goal of streamlining the approval of eligible facilities requests the commission should adopt rules that provide consistency for applicants and reviewing authorities alike.”
Note: Section 6409(a) of the aforementioned act states that “a State or local government may not deny, and shall approve, any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.”
The two congressional leaders also expressed the urgency for the commission to identify ways to foster broadband infrastructure deployment.
“Facilitating both the deployment of small cells for targeted capacity and the use of temporary towers for short, sharp spikes in usage are part and parcel to meeting national broadband goals. Both are important tools for providing the robust service upon which consumers, businesses, and public safety rely.”
We think the Congressmen are right on the mark with their requests. New FCC rules and procedures are urgently needed to get wireless broadband deployed in more of the US, especially in rural areas that are currently un-served or under-served.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai in a speech last week at the Infrastructure Association’s annual conference echoed the concerns of the Congressmen:
“Regulations can make it tough to deploy infrastructure,” Pai said, lamenting that state and local municipalities decisions are often governed by antiquated one-size-fits-all rules and laws.
Referring to Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and small-cell deployments, Pai said:
“These systems are barely visible, and they hardly impact the surrounding environment” and in a reference to a Bob Dylan ballad, “neither DAS nor small cells belong on Maggie’s Farm no more.”