On September 26th, Republican FCC Commissioners adopted an Order that usurps local control and, in keeping with this administration’s prior policy decisions, strengthens the power of the largest companies, obtaining nothing in return.
At issue are local governments’ ability to determine the amount of fees to charge mobile carriers that want to place 5G equipment in rights-of-way. In addition to establishing fees, the Order sets strict timelines in which cities and towns must respond to carrier applications. The FCC decision eliminates local communities’ ability to negotiate in order to protect their own rights-of-way and the poles, traffic lights, and other potential structures in them.
To back up their decision to adopt the new policy, the Republican controlled FCC relied on the incorrect claims that application and attachment fees in larger communities are so excessive that they create a burden which prevents carriers from investing in rural communities. Former FCC Chief of Staff and one of the architects of the 2010 National Broadband Plan Blair Levin echoed the thoughts of policy analysts and thought leaders in telecommunications:
"[E]ven if one accepts the FCC claim about the $2.5 billion—which is highly questionable—that amount is about one percent of what the FCC and industry claim is the necessary new investment needed for next-generation network deployments and, therefore, is not likely to have a significant impact," he wrote.
The FCC does not require mobile carriers to commit to expanded coverage in smaller communities within the Order. Next Century Cities describes the situation in a press release:
These low fees would create a de facto public subsidization of industry investment. … The FCC is just giving private wireless companies all of the benefits of a utility without any traditional public interest obligations.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has continued to oppose the Order, described the giveaway: