WASHINGTON D.C. — Yesterday, the FCC announced that it would move forward with a plan to remove barriers to deployment of the new infrastructure needed to provide 5G wireless service, which requires more, smaller antennae than the large towers used to provide 4G and traditional mobile services. The FCC’s agreement with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACPH) and National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) will eliminate the costly and time-consuming historic preservation review process for small cells, distributed antennae systems (DAS), and other small networking equipment that pose no adverse impact to historic sites and locations.
“Wireless providers already face a staggering backlog in getting permission from local governments for building and upgrading 4G towers. That process has to be simplified for Americans to enjoy faster 5G service,” said Tom Struble, Policy Counsel at TechFreedom. “The historic and environmental review processes for assessing the impact of proposed sitings are typically long and arduous. They make some sense for major projects, like siting a traditional cell tower. Small cells and DAS, by contrast, typically just attach a small antenna atop existing infrastructure, and thus are unlikely to pose any significant impact on historic sites. Historical review imposes a time-consuming, burdensome, and pointless approval process that is inappropriate for this situation, and would only hinder 5G deployment.”
Struble points to Positive Train Control (PTC) as an example. PTC overrides the controls of trains to stop a train if necessary to prevent an accident. This technology relies on small cells laid along train tracks having constant communication with the trains. Because each small cell was being installed along train tracks that have already been laid and in use for decades, they pose little if any impact to historic sites. However, each siting had to be separately analyzed and approved under the historic preservation review process. This led to massive multi-year delays in rollout and a preventable accident in the Northeast corridor.
“The FCC has been so busy trying to seize new regulatory powers, it’s not paid nearly enough attention to problems like this one,” Struble concluded. “But better late than never. Consumers all over America will benefit from this deal — a crucial step towards ensuring that the U.S. retains its position as a global leader in mobile infrastructure and the apps and services built for high-speed wireless. Although we often criticize the agency for much of its work, even we must salute the FCC here!”
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