FCC greenlights small cell free-for-all in the US

New rules wil lower requirements to build wireless cells

America's favorite watchdog the FCC has suggested a set of new rules for installing hardware for 5G wireless broadband networks.

The communications regulator's notice (PDF) of proposed rule-making sets out new guidelines for carriers and places the burden for blocking small cell antenna units on the city and state authorities. The moves, like many being made under the leadership of FCC chairman Ajit Pai, would be decidedly more friendly to telcos than previous rules.

"Current and next-generation wireless broadband have the potential to bring enormous benefits to the US, supporting millions of jobs and billions of dollars in investment," the FCC said in the notice.

"In order to continue to meet demand and to achieve the potential of next-generation services, wireless providers will depend on having a regulatory framework that promotes and facilitates network infrastructure deployment."

Most notably, the new rules would require that when telcos notify local governments of their plans to install small cell hardware on city light poles and other public locations, the city be given a "shot clock" period to deny the request or the telco will be presumed to have permission. Previously carriers would be required that permission be granted before starting work.

Other provisions called for in the rules would be loosening the restrictions on building in and around preserved historic areas and protected environmental zones, once again making it easier for telcos to construct towers in and around those areas and reducing the time needed for approval.

The rules come as telcos are pressing forward with their plans to build 5G wireless broadband networks in the US. Anticipating a widespread rollout in the coming years, carriers have been pressing Pai and the FCC to clear the road of regulatory hurdles, and the CTIA says the proposed rules do just that.

"CTIA is pleased that Chairman Pai and his fellow commissioners are moving forward to evaluate ways to modernize 5G wireless infrastructure deployment," the telco lobbying group said.

"The FCC has a clear path to remove regulatory barriers to new wireless infrastructure deployment, drive significant investment and job growth, and help deliver greater wireless connectivity for consumers and businesses." ®

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