The FCC is currently in the midst of efforts to streamline infrastructure siting requirements for telcos, having recently undertaken a review of how state and local processes affect the speed and cost of deployments. But Commissioner Mignon Clyburn this week hinted the FCC’s plan to step in on the state and local levels and apply one cohesive framework for siting could be hampered by its separate attempts to roll back Title II regulation.
Speaking at the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference in Atlanta, Clyburn said a reversal of Title II would do more than erase the foundation for net neutrality. It would also undermine the basis for universal service programs and streamlining pole attachment regulations. Without Title II, Clyburn noted broadband providers who do not also provide a cable or legacy voice service will not be able to take advantage of the rights granted to them under section 224 of the Communications Act of 1934.
“There is a lot of talk in Washington right now about preempting states and localities in the context of both tower siting and rights-of-way,” Clyburn observed. “But they propose to rely on section 253 of the Act to do so. That provision can only be used if the provider is offering a telecommunications service. I am not sure how a 5G deployment with a LTE and VoLTE fallback will qualify as telecommunications service within the meaning of the Act if the majority’s attempt at reclassification goes through.”
Clyburn indicated she disagreed with the blanket preemption of localities in the management of their rights-of-way, noting that this approach “ignores that some of the most interesting ideas in infrastructure deployment have come out of the states and municipalities.”
The Commission’s movement on siting requirements has come in response to pleas from telcos, which have cast the myriad of municipal regulations around infrastructure as a “minefield.” But municipal groups have pushed back on the idea of the Feds stepping in, and some states are already starting to move on their own on cell siting reform while the FCC mulls over the problem. Virginia became the latest state to ease small cell siting rules when Governor Terry McAuliffe on Thursday signed a bill creating a uniform procedures for approval of wireless infrastructure. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton also recently signed into law a bill to streamline and standardize rules for small cell deployments.
As the lone Democrat on the FCC’s current three-member Commission, Clyburn faces an uphill battle in her fight to preserve Title II. However, she does have some support on Capitol Hill and from activists across the country seeking to fight for net neutrality protections. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden have both pledged to fight a Title II rollback and push for preservation of net neutrality rules. Fight for the Future and other net neutrality advocates including Amazon, Etsy, GitHub, the Free Press Action Fund, the ACLU, Public Knowledge and others have also designated July 12 as a “day of action” on the issue, with a focus on mobilization for the movement.
To date, the FCC has received nearly five million comments on its net neutrality proposal. Comments are due to close August 16.
Filed Under: Industry regulations