FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly on Tuesday suggested the agency is preparing to crack down on states and local governments with onerous regulations governing wireless infrastructure.
“We’ve tried the nice route,” O’Rielly said during a question-and-answer session at the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Connectivity Expo in Charlotte, N.C. “I think now we’re going to have to try the aggressive route.”
Proponents of standardizing and streamlining infrastructure regulations nationwide argue the changes are needed to efficiently deploy small cells, which are a fraction of the size of macro cellular towers and therefore should not need the same regulatory oversight.
The FCC earlier this year eliminated federal oversight of small cells in hopes of bolstering development of 5G networks, but those projects remain subject to state and local regulations.
WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein said, to date, 20 states have enacted standard small cell siting processes, but the 30 remaining states generally feature widely varying zoning regulations.
O’Rielly said he still hopes the FCC will take up the matter this summer, although he conceded it “could slip a little.”
He argued the commission needs to utilize its authority to remove barriers to network development, but opponents have criticized efforts to ease local oversight of wireless projects.
O’Rielly characterized some communities with burdensome regulations as “bad actors” and suggested they simply hoped to extract as much funding as possible from carriers and infrastructure providers.
In some cities, he said, companies have simply opted to build elsewhere rather than meet local demands.
“That can’t be an acceptable answer,” O’Rielly said.
Although he conceded that sweeping FCC action would present problems for supporters of shared state and local authority — and acknowledged the tight budget constraints faced by many governments — the nation’s wireless connectivity is a more important factor.
“I’ve got a larger goal,” O’Rielly said. “Which is making sure the citizens are served.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations