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Eat my shorts, watchdog tells every city mayor in the US – FCC approves $2bn 5G telco windfall

The Simpsons meets next-gen mobile broadband policies

Enter, Lisa Simpson

To make matters worse, there are only four commissioners after Mignon Clyburn unexpectedly quit earlier this year. "I've done all I know to do. And it's time for me to serve in another way," she said before leaving just a few weeks later. The seat is still unfilled meaning that the only adult and the only woman in the FCC Boys' Club is Jessica Rosenworcel.

She had quite a few things to say about the 5G plan.

"When the FCC kicked off rulemaking on wireless infrastructure last year, I had hopes," she noted. "I hoped we could provide a way to encourage and streamline deployment nationwide." And she supported the part of the order that speeds up approval of smaller 5G cell sites from three months to two months.

But then she turned to the main issue: the imposition of a federal cap and the removal of local government's ability to negotiate their own terms for commercial equipment placed on their property.

"Instead of working with our state and local partners to speed the way to 5G deployment, we cut them out," she noted. "With complete disregard for the fact that these infrastructure decisions do not work the same in New York, New York, and New York, Iowa."

Looking at the three chums sat next to one another and occasionally grinning at themselves, she went on: "So it comes down to this, three unelected officials on this dias are telling state and local leaders all across the country what they can and cannot do in their backyards. This is extraordinary federal overreach, and I don't believe that the law permits Washington to run roughshod over state and local authority like this."

She also pointed out that the new plan "irresponsibly interferes with existing agreements and ongoing deployment all across the country. There are thousands of cities and towns with agreements for infrastructure deployment that were negotiated in good faith."

So, um, actual policy ideas

Being a serious policymaker, Rosenworcel also gave a list of ideas for how the self-same goals could have been achieved without forcing one group's views (Big Cable companies) over another's (city, local and state government.)

"We can build a new framework," she proposed, "we can start with developing models for small cells and make sure they're supported by state and local officials… and create a common set of practices nationwide… We would carrots instead of sticks."

She also pointed to outdated FCC regulation about installing TV antennas – the so-called OTARD rules (standing for Over-the-Air Reception Devices). These rules were designed to allow Americans to set up their own antennas and restrict what companies are allowed to do.

But, Rosenworcel noted, "what if, instead of micro-managing costs, we fostered competition?" She suggests "dusting off" OTARD to allow companies to install 5G equipment on private homes.

With private homeowners willing to take an annual payment for a cell site on their house, "we would put public pressure on public rights-of-ways and bring down fees through competition instead of the government rate-making my colleagues prefer."

"We don't explore these market-based alternatives in today's decision," she complained. "We don't consider creative incentive-based system to foster development especially in rural areas. But above all, we neglect the opportunity to recognize what is most fundamental: if we want to speed the way for 5G service, we need to work with cities and states across the country because they are our partners."

And, then having listened to the FCC's Lisa Simpson, the three Barts named Ajit, Brendan and Michael voted to pass the measure. ®

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