Six lawsuits filed against controversial new 5G rules drawn up by America's communications watchdog have been bundled into one, and will be heard at the Tenth Circuit of Appeals.
A lottery held late last week selected the appeals court that covers the middle of the country – Oklahoma, Utah, Colorado, etc – and the appellants, who range from West Coast cities to East Coast telco operators – have been told this week to migrate their cases accordingly.
At the heart of the mass challenge is the FCC's recent decision to override state and local governments and insist there be a single flat-fee for installing new 5G cell nodes, as well as standardized national processes and contracts for approving new sites.
Due to its design, 5G will need many more cell sites packed closer together in order to offer greater speeds. As such the federal watchdog believes its standardized approach will cut red tape and therefore speed up rollout. The flat fee will be $270 per site per year – far lower than some existing agreements already reached by big cities – and the FCC claims this will free up billions of dollars that the telcos will then invest back into building out the network.
In effect, the regulator is letting wireless carriers pay way less money than expected to city coffers, cutting the corporations a $2bn discount.
The imposition of federal rules was met with fury by many local governments — including Los Angeles, San Jose and Huntington Beach in California; Las Vegas in Nevada; and Portland in Oregon – which came good on their threat to take legal action if the rules were approved, and sued the FCC claiming [PDF] it has overstepped its authority.
The FCC order violates the Constitution, they argue, because states should not be forced to carry out a program authorized by a federal regulator. They also argue that the new rules deprives them of their right to own property – because they are being told what they can, and cannot, do with their land.
Waste of time?
Perhaps more surprisingly, there is a big question mark over whether the new rules will actually result in the intended boost to the next-generation wireless technology. Last week, Verizon raised eyebrows when it said on a conference call with financial analysts that the new rules would have no impact on its 5G rollout plans and it may actually slow down current plans instead of expand them.
On top of that, the FCC is also being sued [PDF] by three telecoms operators – the very companies that the measure was supposed to benefit – because they claim it didn't go far enough.
AT&T, Verizon and Sprint say the FCC rules should have included so-called "deemed granted" provisions that would cause a new cell site to be automatically approved once the imposed application timelines had been passed.
Otherwise they will be forced to sue if local authorities miss the deadline – and that's a big waste of their time and money, the telcos cry.
By not giving the carriers the automatic right to install their equipment, the federal regulator had been "arbitrary and capricious" the telcos argue. And it was responsible for an "abuse of discretion." And its directive had been "inadequately reasoned."
Sheesh, even when you bend over backwards to help them, telco companies just want more. ®