CWA to FCC: draft small cell order is federal overreach

CWA’s Director of Research Debbie Goldman sent a letter to the FCC criticising the Commission’s draft small cell order as inconsistent with the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) recommendations and an example of federal overreach. “The draft Order, in addition to restricting the power and authority of local governments,” Goldman wrote, “is inconsistent with the BDAC Model Code for Municipalities Working Group’s guiding principles and numerous recommendations, curbs the efforts of local governments to close the digital divide – an issue Chairman Pai described as ‘one of our core priorities going forward’ in his first speech as Chairman – and undercuts the BDAC process by ignoring the views of critical stakeholders.”

The Commission claims that the small cell order is intended to facilitate wireless infrastructure deployment. But the draft order sets requirements that will make it difficult for local governments to protect their residents’ safety, health, and welfare in leasing access to public facilities and rights-of-way.

Goldman’s letter argues:

  • The draft Order’s proposed fee levels are unreasonable and will harm local policy innovation.

  • The Commission’s aesthetic controls are flawed.

  • The Commission ignores the work of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.

  • The draft Order is federal agency overreach.

More specifically, the draft order proposes local controls and fee levels that are unreasonable – and that will hinder local government’s ability to close the digital divide. The order sets a national aesthetic control and fee regime that will apply to every municipality in the US, regardless of market costs. Essentially, the Commission will tell localities how they must accommodate wireless companies that want to build on local public property. The draft order prevents local governments from using facility fees for programs to close the digital divide. The FCC says its order will help all Americans get connected to broadband while also hindering local efforts to to connect their residents to broadband.

This is not only federal overreach – it’s bad policy.

Moreover, the order is inconsistent with the recommendations made by the BDAC Model Code for Municipalities Working Group, of which Goldman was a member. “I put in hundreds of hours in conference calls, review of dozens of working drafts, and background research as our Working Group aimed to develop consensus on a Model Code that carefully balanced the interests of all stakeholders,” she wrote. “But the draft Order ignores our work, choosing instead to further the interests of the wireless industry over that of the public. What’s more, the Commission makes this choice without any guarantee that broadband services will be provided to every American.”

Read the full letter here. The Commission will vote on the draft order on Sept. 26.



CWA to FCC on draft small cell order (FCC, Sept. 18, 2018)