Don’t force us to subsidize wireless companies, cities ask FCC

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

The Federal Communication Commission’s move toward preempting local and state review of wireless infrastructure building plans and locations, and, potentially, their ability to control public right-of-ways and real estate they own, has produced a useful primer on the issues involved, as cities and counties see it. A coalition of more than 1,800 communities filed a joint response to a request from Mobilitie, a mobile infrastructure company, that asked the FCC to give it free rein to install tens of thousands of towers, which it tries to pass off as 120-foot steel utility poles, along public roads (h/t to Omar Masry at the City and County of San Francisco for the pointer).

The comments do an admirable job documenting Mobilitie’s deceptive dealings with local government, and focus in on the key issue at stake: whether a select group of private companies should get an automatic right to use public property at little or no cost…

The FCC should reject Mobilitie’s request that it regulate either the regulatory fees associated with applications to place wireless facilities, or the rents it must pay to use public property. A federal policy that allows Mobilitie or other wireless service or facilities providers to obtain permits without paying the full costs of those permit, or to use public property without paying fair market value will encourage inefficient, intrusive deployments, deter innovation and could impose billions of dollars in costs on local communities and their citizens. Any such policy will have marginal benefits, at best. It is unlikely to lead to deployment in areas that are not served today…

As a basic principle, the Commission should be reluctant to adopt any rules that have the effect of requiring states or local governments to subsidize the business plans of these service and facilities providers, or to assume risks that flow from their business plans.

It’s a conclusion that Californian legislators should take to heart as they consider senate bill 649, which would have pretty much the same effect.

The only Californian community that signed on to the filing was the City of Los Angeles which, as the comments note, was the first to trial a particular sort of next generation cell deployments on streetlights – hardly an anti-wireless zealot.

Comments of smart communities siting coalition, on petition by Mobilitie LLC petition for streamlining deployment of small cell infrastructure, 8 March 2017