The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a long-awaited infrastructure Order that clarifies key siting rules for wireless infrastructure deployment, including 5G. The “5G Upgrade Order” includes a declaratory ruling that took effect immediately and a proposal for further comment that would allow site owners to expand compounds without zoning delays. The FCC action will promote collocation, eliminate roadblocks to siting on existing infrastructure, and accelerate wireless network upgrades.
“This is the culmination of a multi-year effort by WIA working with the FCC to smooth the path for upgrading the nation’s wireless infrastructure through collocation. The 5G Upgrade Order comes at an ideal time as 5G deployments are accelerating. By improving the process for collocation, the FCC makes deploying 5G more efficient for communities across America. The FCC also teed up further action to expand compounds by 30 feet around existing towers, where upgrades are needed for public safety, generators, and mobile edge computing for 5G services,” said WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “WIA is grateful for Commissioner Carr’s consistent leadership on these reforms and the strong support from Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly. We also thank the FCC staff for their diligent attention to WIA’s petitions. Today truly marks a victory for wireless consumers who are relying more than ever on connectivity.”
What is the 5G Upgrade Order and How Does It Help Infrastructure Providers?
The 5G Upgrade Order has been the culmination of eight years of work led by WIA, the FCC, and Congress to update rules governing macro and other wireless infrastructure deployments. This is a big step to pave the way for 5G deployment when Americans rely on connectivity more than ever. The 5G Upgrade Order:
- Sets a clear demarcation as to when the 60-day shot clock for local approval begins
- Clarifies which new equipment qualifies for streamlined approval
- Ensures local governments cannot misuse conditions of approval, like concealment and aesthetic conditions, to limit the ability to quickly upgrade infrastructure
- Clarifies what concealment elements are and that local governments cannot require new concealment elements for the modification that were not part of the facility that was approved previously
- To “defeat concealment” the proposed modification must cause a reasonable person to view the structure’s intended stealth design as no longer effective after the modification; for example, the local government cannot say that placing coax cable on the outside of the facility defeats concealment
- Provides more flexibility for providers in upgrading equipment like smaller remote radio units to keep up with advances in technology
- An environmental assessment is not needed when the FCC and applicants have entered into a memorandum of agreement to mitigate effects of a proposed undertaking on historic properties
It also asks for public comment on a rule change that permits 30 feet for compound expansions, which would facilitate deployment of advanced equipment like edge data centers and generators.
“Today’s action will expedite equipment upgrades to deploy these next-generation networks, which are critical to expanding economic opportunities and supporting public health and safety in American communities,” the FCC said in an official statement.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has been leading the Commission’s efforts in working toward 5G upgrades. He announced at WIA’s Connect (X): All Access that the FCC would vote on this important Order. In a press release following the event, the Commissioner said, “America’s tower crews and telecom techs are building the strongest 5G network in the world. Their efforts already are creating new jobs and opportunities in towns across the country. By streamlining tower upgrades, we will encourage even more investment in our communities and new service to connect families.” He continued saying, “Rural America will benefit from new competition for their broadband dollars. First responders will benefit from dedicated networks and expanded capacity. And all Americans will benefit from world-leading wireless service as existing towers are upgraded to 5G.”