FCC's NPRM on improving wireless facilities siting policies published in Federal Register

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The Federal Communications Commission published in the Federal Register the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies.  Publication established the filing deadlines: comments are due February 3, 2014; replies are due March 5, 2014. The NPRM is designed “to explore opportunities to promote the deployment of infrastructure that is necessary to provide the public with advanced wireless broadband services,” according to the FCC. The commission seeks comment on four major issues: small cells/Distributed Antenna Systems; temporary towers; implementation of Section 6409(a); and the shot clock declaratory ruling. The NPRM seeks comment on measures to expedite the Commission’s environmental review processes under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (“NEPA”) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”) for “new wireless technologies that may, because of their intrinsic characteristics, have minimal effects on the environment.” The need to address the environmental obligations of DAS and small cell systems was brought to the attention of the Commission by PCIA/HetNet Forum. The Commission recognizes that the existing “review process is not well suited to technologies that may require the deployment of dozens or hundreds of small cells or antennas in an area.” It also recognizes that the current environmental policies and rules were established when wireless service generally was provided through antennas mounted on communications towers at a height of 100 feet or more, whereas today carriers often use smaller antennas installed at much lower heights and supported by compact radio equipment. These technologies, including DAS, small cells, and others, can be deployed on utility poles, street lamps, water towers, or rooftops, as well as inside buildings, to enhance capacity or fill in coverage gaps. “PCIA is thrilled that the FCC has taken up the call so aggressively to streamline the deployment of wireless infrastructure,” Jonathan Adelstein, President and CEO of PCIA –The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said when the NPRM was announced in September.  “This will lead to real solutions to expand both coverage and capacity, so that Americans everywhere have access to latest in wireless communications. Today’s action moves us closer to meeting President Obama’s goal of providing at least 98% of Americans with access to 4G high-speed wireless broadband.”

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