FCC Votes to Exempt Small Cells from Reviews
origin : EE Times
Date : 2018-04-04
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Boston - On March 22, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules that include removing small cells from some environmental and historical review processes. While that should accelerate 5G deployment in rural areas, it's not without controversy. Specifically, the FCC's press release noted that one of the new rules Excludes small wireless facilities deployed on non-Tribal lands from National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, concluding that these facilities are not "undertakings" or "major federal actions." Small wireless facilities deployments continue to be subject to currently applicable state and local government approval requirements. I first learned about this in item #4 of a report posted on politico. The vote was 3-2 along party lines. After reading each of the commissioners statements, I see that there's a lot more to this action that Politico reported. Some is technical, some political. All five commissioners agreed that there is a need to deploy 5G and to keep the U.S. at or near the top of 5G development. In this case, 5G deployment centers around the small cells. One advantage of small cells over macro cells comes in the form of smaller antennas. Especially if the cells use mmWave frequencies (28 GHz, 39 GHz, and others in the U.S.) All commissioners agreed that the rules for deploying cells are now outdated as technology has advanced. The two commissioners who voted against adoption of the rules - Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn &mdash did so not because of a resistance to the cells, but to the process by which the FCC conducted the vote. They wanted to delay the vote and allow more review time to fix the real problem of outdated rules and statutes. Rosenworcel argued that the reason for a lack of high-speed internet access in rural areas is due to economics, not historical or environmental issues. That is, rural areas don't have the density of potential subscribers found on urban areas, making them less likely to get services from carriers. Wireless carriers often pay "consulting" fees to Tribes for the rights to install cell towers outside of Tribal lands. Such fees are in the range of $12,000 to $15,000, but they can add up. Those who voted for exempting the small cells from environmental and historical reviews claimed that a few Tribes use these fees as "cash cows," according to Commissioner Michael O'Rielly. "Some Tribes have sought money and consulting roles for areas that their ancestors never travelled, as a means to raise revenues and address Tribal unemployment, a jobs program if you will," he wrote. He claimed that a few Tribes operate in "bad faith." While O'Rielly didn't accuse some of the Tribes of trying to extort money from the carriers, you could argue that he really use wanted to save a few dollars for large companies, which could be political contributors. On the other hand, I could argue that dissenters Rosenworcel and Clyburn also had an agenda. Although both advocated for 5G, they wanted to delay the vote, but for how long? Perhaps enough to get past the mid-term elections? I also question Politco's coverage, which said "the actual rollout of 5G has been slow, plagued by technological and developmental delays." Not so. Any delays are political, not technological. Indeed, 5G development is proceeding faster than originally thought. 3GPP adapted its forst 5G specification on December, a full six months ahead of earlier plans.