NLC, Local Allies Oppose Wireless Petitions Before FCC

November 4, 2019 - (3 min read)

NLC is continuing the fight against telecom preemption. We have joined a number of local governments and municipal organizations throughout the country in opposition to recent proposals from the Wireless Industry Association (WIA) and the Communications Technology Industry Association (CTIA). These proposals aim to further limit local oversight of wireless towers and pole attachments.

The FCC requested feedback on the proposals and whether they should expand the scope of Section 6409 of the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which covers existing federal regulations preempting local governance of wireless towers. If enacted, the proposals from WIA and CTIA would substantially limit current authority local governments have to manage changes made to large wireless towers in their communities, as well as further limiting the control pole owners, such as local governments or utilities, have over pole attachments.

The petitions requested of the FCC seek to expand coverage of the 2014 rules to preempt local government oversight of modifications to existing wireless facilities (known as Section 6409 eligible facilities requests). Among the changes requested were:

  • limitations on local concealment requirements for modifications;
  • changes in how the size of base stations are defined and calculated to limit the ability of local governments to deny change requests;
  • include all changes or expansions within 30 feet of an existing wireless tower under the umbrella of Section 6409 preemptions;
  • creating a “deemed granted” provision that automatically grants applications if local governments miss shot clock deadlines;
  • tightening shot clock deadlines to start when a “good faith attempt to request local approval” is made by an applicant, and to include all local permits and processes (such as electrical or construction, not just communications permits);
  • requiring all fees associated with Section 6409 requests be cost-based;
  • prohibiting conditional approvals of applications; and
  • changing the rules dealing with utility and streetlight pole attachments to bar pole owners from prohibiting attachment to any portion of the pole (including the electrical supply area).

NLC and our local allies argued that the proposed changes were unnecessary for continued wireless infrastructure deployment. These changes would harm local governments and their residents. In particular, NLC’s comments challenged the notion that expanding an existing wireless tower 30 feet beyond its original footprint would not constitute a significant change, and so would be exempt from normal local review. Our comments also objected to further limitations of local wireless siting fees, shot clocks, and concealment requirements, beyond those already imposed by the 2014 order. NLC’s comments pointed out a number of potential safety and accessibility problems presented by these preemption proposals.

In response to a request from NLC and other local stakeholders, the FCC has extended its reply comment deadline until November 13. Cities, towns and villages know their community needs best. Use this extended opportunity to advocate for the preservation of important local control and authority.

If your community wishes to file reply comments, use WT Docket No. 19-250, RM-11849 (Implementation of State and Local Governments’ Obligation to Approve Certain Wireless Facility Modification Requests Under Section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012) and WC Docket No. 17-84 (Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment). To learn how to file comments with the FCC, click here.


About the Author: Angelina Panettieri is the Legislative Manager for Information Technology and Communications at the National League of Cities. Follow her on twitter at @AngelinainDC.