In a move welcomed by carriers, the FCC last month began a review of small cell siting issues with an eye to reducing municipal deployment hurdles. The move came in response to pleas from telcos, which claim they are facing a “minefield of delays, overly burdensome requirements, and excessive fees to gain access to municipal rights-of-way.” Without relief from the FCC, the carriers have argued, small cell deployments will be subject to long delays and excessive costs.
Sprint provided the FCC with some further color on the latter point in an ex parte filing this week in which it revealed it paid upwards of $173,000 to install cell sites in Houston ahead of the 2017 Super Bowl.
According to the carrier, the fees were incurred as part of historic preservation review of its plan to install 23 cell sites around NRG Stadium that required consultation with a number of Tribal Nations. A total of 12 tribes demanded fees totaling $6,580 per site – a sum that increased to $7,535 when contract review coordinator fees were figured in. All told, the carrier said it paid $173,305 just to secure tribal review and approval for the 23 sites.
Sprint indicated that figure is a drop in the bucket alongside “millions” it has paid in fees since the passage of the current historic review process requirements in 2004. And that process, the carrier said, has yet to result in a tribe asking Sprint to reconsider a site location due to a claimed adverse impact on historic grounds.
“Sprint has paid millions of dollars in fees in the last 13 years and could be required to pay tens of millions more in the coming years unless the Commission reforms the process as small cell deployments increase,” Sprint Senior Counsel Keith Buell wrote in the filing. “Tribal Nations are continuing to demand higher fees and designate larger and larger areas of interest. At the present, there are no constraints on the amount of fees a Tribal Nation may require or the geographic areas for which it can require payment for review. And as the example described above shows, the tribal historic review process remains in place even in situations—such as utility rights-of-way—where the Commission has exempted state historic review.”
The current small cell siting measure being considered by the FCC follows the Commission’s signing of an agreement last year with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) to eliminate historic preservation review for small facility deployments that don’t negatively impact historic sites or locations. More on that can be found here.
Filed Under: Industry regulations