Streamlining 5G Deployment | Citizens Against Government Waste
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Streamlining 5G Deployment

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On June 28, 2018, Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced S. 3157, the Streamlining The Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance Small Cell Deployment Act (STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act), which seeks to reduce barriers to deploying small cell technology.  Creating a network of small cells is crucial to deploying fifth generation (5G) technology that will enable greater communication for the Internet of Things (IoT), precision agriculture, smart city technology, and telehealth.

Deploying new telecommunications technology is never an easy task.  In addition to the federal regulatory structure, providers must navigate a maze of state and local regulations to gain access to rights-of-way, approval for engineering specifications, and permission for access to poles and other structures.

S. 3157 would institute several time and permitting restrictions to speed the deployment of small cell technology within states and localities.  The legislation requires permits to be approved or denied based on reasonable, objective, and nondiscriminatory criteria that is publicly available.  The bill also allows states and localities to deny or regulate applications for small cells for objective and reasonable structural engineering standards, safety requirements, or aesthetic or concealment requirements.  S. 3157 provides certainty in the application process by requiring state and local governments to act upon applications within 60 days for collocated equipment and 90 days for other requests, and allows for additional time and flexibility for smaller municipalities of fewer than 50,000 residents. 

The bill allows the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide a one-time 30-day waiver of the timeframes upon request by a state or local government.  In addition, state and local governments must publicly disclose fees charged for processing applications, and the fees must be competitively neutral, technology neutral, nondiscriminatory and based on actual and direct costs.

Any final bill considered by the Congress should comply with H.R. 50, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, which aims to increase transparency regarding the thousands of rules Washington imposes every year on local governments and small businesses.  Hidden in those rules are costly mandates that stretch state and city budgets, as well as negative consequences, in dollars and jobs, for the private sector.

With the evolution of technology, many existing laws relating to large cell tower siting no longer apply.  While larger towers placed far apart work well transmitting data on 4G networks, a robust 5G network will require equipment to be placed, on average, about 500 feet apart to work effectively within municipalities.  Siting regulations and application fees used to generate approval of a 200-foot tower do not necessary apply to a small cell transmitter that can be potentially as small as a pizza box attached to a building or street light fixture. 

By streamlining the approval process, and increasing transparency for application fees and rights-of-way access fees, the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act will help speed the deployment of 5G networks, while allowing states and local governments to continue to reasonably address their individual needs.

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