Small Cells Aren’t Like a Pizza Box

Repost

Pizza Box Small Cells
Number of Pizza Boxes that Fit in 6 Cubic Feet or 28 Cubic Feet

WHAT THE INDUSTRY SAYS

The wireless industry has been pushing the fiction that small cells are the size of a pizza box.   Here is a quote in a Wireless Week article

“Americans will benefit tremendously from innovations like 5G and the Internet of Things, which require more small cell facilities – often the size of a pizza box – to build a denser network,” CTIA’s assistant vice president of regulatory affairs Scott Bergmann said. “Today’s action by the FCC recognizes the minimal impact of these facilities, but there is more work to be done. We must streamline infrastructure policies at all levels of government so that wireless providers can rapidly deliver the next generation of products and services to consumers.”  (emphasis added)

Furthermore, as reported by Wireless Estimator here,  “In the CTIA presentation, the trade group said that networks can now be extended on (sic) common structures like street lights and utility poles and that there will be 300,000 “pizza box-sized small cells needed in [the] next 3-4 years.”

WHAT THE INDUSTRY ACTUALLY WANTS

While some small cells are the size of a pizza box- many aren’t.   The industry clearly doesn’t think so either despite their public pronouncement otherwise.   In the newly proposed state legislation in 20+ states, there is language that allows the wireless industry to install up to 6 cubic feet of antennas and up to 28 cubic feet of equipment on each pole.  For example, see this language from the recently passed Virginia statute.

“Small cell facility” means a wireless facility that meets both of the following qualifications: (i) each antenna is located inside an enclosure of no more than six cubic feet in volume, or in the case of an antenna that has exposed elements, the antenna and all of its exposed elements could fit within an imaginary enclosure of no more than six cubic feet; and (ii) all other wireless equipment associated with the facility is cumulatively no more than 28 cubic feet in volume, or facilities comprised of such higher limits as established by the Federal Communication Commission. The following types of associated equipment are not included in the calculation of equipment volume: electric meter, concealment, telecommunications demarcation boxes, ground-based enclosures, back-up power systems, grounding equipment, power transfer switches, cut-off switches, and vertical cable runs for the connection of power and other services.”

In other words, the industry likes to present to municipalities that small cells are the size of a singular pizza box because it makes a compelling story.   However, the want to give their members the right to install substantially larger equipment than would fit in a single pizza box.

Please feel free to use this image without attribution.   Also, for another good representation of what 28 cubic feet represents- see http://wireless.blog.law/2017/04/22/california-sb-649-big-lie-small-cells/.

Changes to Federal Communications Law as a Result of FCC’s Report and Order

If you missed last week’s webinar click the link for the recording.  Email me if you want copies of the slides.  Elizabeth@CityScapeGov.com

http://youtu.be/xOLq0KhHBlw

FCC Comments to NPRM

As we have mentioned before the FCC is soliciting comments for the Notice of Proposed Rule Making “Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies.”

Below are our sample comments in response to this NPRM in an attempt to protect local authority.  Please feel free to use all or in part any of our comments.  

Click here to download to your computer: Sample Comments FCC NPRM

For the full FCC document right click to save on your computer: FCC NPRM doc

The initial comments are due by February 3, 2014.  There are two ways to file comments either electronically or via old-fashioned paper. 
Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (“ECFS”.) To access the ECFS Click here:  http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/
  • Once you access the ECFS system, select “Submit a Filing” on the left side of the page, then fill in the Proceeding Number with 13-238 and complete the remainder of the information on that page
  • Then upload your Comments (preferably in Acrobat PDF format) by following the instructions
Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each filing.  If more than one docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this proceeding, filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking number.  Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, by U.S. Postal Service first-class or overnight.
**All filings must be addressed to the Commission’s Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission. 
  • All U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail or hand-delivered/messenger-delivered paper filings must be delivered to:
FCC Headquarters
445 12th St., SW, Room TW-A325
Washington, DC 20554
  • The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.  All hand deliveries must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be disposed of before entering the building.
  • Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to:
9300 East Hampton Drive
Capitol Heights, MD 20743

Part 2 of our 4-part discussion of the FCC’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”)

“Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies.”

As we noted in Part 1, the FCC is proposing new rules on wireless siting issues that may impact local government’s ability to regulate the placement of these facilities.

Part 1 discussed proposed new federal rules for the siting of DAS/Small Cell facilities, either as collocations or as new facilities.

Part 2:  Proposes rules for the siting of temporary towers, and is the section least affecting local government.

The NPRM proposes to permanently exempt “temporary” towers from the environmental review, historical review, and federal antenna structure registration requirements provided the structures meet certain requirements.

By way of background, most antenna structures require (in addition to the environmental review and historical review that we’ve talked about) registration with the FAA and FCC (Antenna Structure Registration,) to ensure that structures of certain heights are painted and illuminated to avoid creating a hazard to aviation.

“Temporary” towers become necessary when there are large crowds gathered for events, weather disaster areas or miscellaneous reasons. At the wireless industry’s prior request, the FCC had granted an interim waiver to exempt temporary facilities from environmental review if they are up for less than 60 days, require notification to the FAA, do not require lighting or painting, are less than 200 feet in height, and involve little or no excavation.   The NPRM proposes to make that interim waiver (and its standards) permanent.

The FCC asks if the standards are reasonable, in particular the 60-day limitation.  Many jurisdictions that address temporary structures use 60 days as a measuring stick, so the FCC’s proposal for 60 days appears to be reasonable and consistent with many local regulations.

The NPRM does ask what the FCC should do if the “temporary” facility ends up being needed more than 60 days – think about the facilities that had to be built after Hurricane Sandy in NJ last year, and the timeline for replacing the permanent infrastructure that was destroyed.  Should those “temporary” facilities then have to go through the environmental and historical review process?

Next up are the two sections of the NPRM that most affect local government – Part 3, which discusses implementing Section 6409(a) of the 2012 Middle Class Job Creation and Tax Relief Act (now found at 47 USC Section 1445(a)) relating to wireless applications that local government MUST approve, and Part 4, dealing with the FCC “shot clock” and what happens to wireless applications that aren’t addressed in the shot clock window.

Click here for the entire FCC Document

Part 1 of 4: FCC September 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies

We’ve told you many times about the continued erosion of local regulatory control over wireless infrastructure.  Well, the FCC continues that process in its September 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”).

The NPRM (which runs 86 pages) click here for link to entire document puts forth a number of proposals which will affect your ability as a locality to determine the placement, size, and composition of wireless infrastructure in your community.

You do have the opportunity to file comments to the FCC’s proposals (which would be due 60 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register, a date which is unknown at the time of writing due to the federal shutdown) and Cityscape urges you to have your city or county attorney file comments regarding the proposals’ effects on local government.

The NPRM’s proposals cover a number of topics, in 4 general areas; we will tackle them one topic at a time to make it easier to digest, and easier for you to prepare comments to file with the FCC.

Part 1:

Expediting Deployment of DAS/Small Cells – The first part addresses a desire to make it easier to deploy DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems) and Small Cell (also called microcell) systems.  After describing how DAS/Small Cells work and suggesting that because of their smaller “footprint”, they are a more desirable infrastructure in historic districts (versus traditional cell sites), the FCC then asks whether the DAS/Small Cells should be subject to the same environmental/historic review as traditional infrastructure.

As some of you know, the construction of most new wireless infrastructure requires federal review under NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969) to determine if there is a significant environmental impact because of the proposed structure.

NEPA reviews fall into 3 categories:

  1. Significant impact (which require a big study)
  2. No significant impact (which require a streamlined study to come to that conclusion)
  3. Categorical exclusions (which are exempt from any review.)   Currently, collocations on existing towers or buildings are categorical exclusions from NEPA, except for historical preservation effects and RF exposure limits.

In addition to NEPA, new facilities have to contend with NHPA (the National Historic Preservation Act), which requires review of any facilities that may impact property included or eligible to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.  Collocations are generally excluded from NHPA review as a result of an agreement with the industry called the National Collocation Programmatic Agreement, unless the collocation results in a “substantial change” in the size of the infrastructure (remember that phrase for later).

The wireless industry has asked the FCC to categorically exclude collocations of DAS/Small Cells from any NEPA/NHPA federal review.

Verizon went even further than the industry as a whole, asking for exemptions not only for collocations on existing antenna towers and buildings but also to facilities mounted on structures such as utility poles, water tanks, light poles, and road signs, thus excluding them from environmental review except for historic preservation and RF emissions exposure compliance. Imagine a stop sign with a wireless antenna on top!

In response to industry requests, the FCC is proposing in the NPRM to redefine “categorically excluded” facilities to include collocations on an “existing building, antenna tower, or other structure” (the change is adding the phrase “or other structure.”)  The FCC wants comment on this idea, as well as whether it should cover not only the antenna equipment but also the ancillary “ground” equipment associated with wireless facilities.

In addition to the above proposal, the FCC is also considering adoption of a new categorical exclusion from the NEPA/NHPA rules for DAS/Small Cell systems (different from the existing collocation exception that they propose broadening above.)

If they do adopt a new categorical exclusion, the FCC is asking how it should be defined.  They recognize that some DAS systems may have equipment similar to traditional wireless infrastructure and that may be inconsistent with a categorical exclusion, and would prefer creating definitions based on objective facts such as size, weight and location rather than just a category called “DAS”.

One industry proposed definition of equipment that would be categorically excluded would be:

  1. Equipment Volume. An equipment enclosure shall be no larger than seventeen (17) cubic feet in volume.
  2. Antenna Volume. Each antenna associated with the installation shall be in an antenna enclosure of no more than three (3) cubic feet in volume. Each antenna that has exposed elements shall fit within an imaginary enclosure of no more than three (3) cubic feet.
  3. Infrastructure Volume. Associated electric meter, concealment, telecom demarcation box, ground-based enclosures, battery back-up power systems, grounding equipment, power transfer switch, and cut-off switch may be located outside the primary equipment enclosure(s) and are not included in the calculation of Equipment Volume.  Volume is a measure of the exterior displacement, not the interior volume of the enclosures.

Any equipment that is concealed from public view in or behind an otherwise approved structure or concealment, is not included in the volume calculations.

Notably, a lot of “stuff” is not included in the calculations for this proposed exclusion from environmental processing.

Thirdly, the FCC asks if DAS/Small Cells should be included in the exclusion currently available (under the National Programmatic Agreement referenced above) for wireless infrastructure that:

  1. Are located in or within 50 feet of a right-of-way designated for communications tower or above-ground utility transmission or distribution lines
  2. Do not constitute a substantial increase in size over existing structures in the right-of-way in the vicinity of the proposed construction
  3. Are not located within the boundaries of a historic property
  4. Have provided the required notices to tribal organizations under the National Programmatic Agreement.

The FCC then asks about the same issues in the context of historic preservation and whether DAS/Small Cells should be eligible for categorical exclusion from historical preservation review.  In particular, whether the attachment of these facilities to telephone poles/street lamps in historic corridors should be categorically excluded, where the telephone pole/street lamps may be part of what makes the corridor “historic” in nature.

DAS is an ascendant technology, and you are going to be seeing it more in your local community in the future.

We would suggest that comments to the FCC on this section of the NPRM should point out the effect of any infrastructure (DAS included) on historic districts, and the importance of properly defining any exclusion that the FCC is thinking of granting to DAS/Small Cells.  In particular, you want to make sure that DAS facilities deemed exempt are not just a single provider site, but rather can accommodate multiple providers, otherwise you could face the real possibility of a DAS site for Provider 1 on one telephone pole, a site for Provider 2 on the next pole, a site for Provider  3 on the next pole, and so on.

Coming Next – Part 2 – Temporary Tower Exemptions from Environmental Processing.