- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a plan that will help states pass laws streamlining approval and deployment of technology to facilitate 5G networks, commissioner Brendan Carr announced Tuesday during a speech in Indiana.
- The proposal, which will be voted on at the agency’s Sept. 25 meeting, would reform laws that were designed for macro-cell installation and adapt them for the smaller micro-cells that broadcast 5G. According to the FCC, the plan would save $2 billion in unnecessary fees.
- It would also implement a federal law to blocks municipal rules that would prohibit deployment of wireless service, and would only allow municipalities to charge fees on small cell deployments limited to covering the municipality’s costs. The plan would also require approval or disapproval of applications to attach small cells to existing structures within 60 days and to applications to build new poles within 90 days, and places “modest guardrails” on rules like aesthetic reviews that may slow down service.
Infrastructure remains one of the barriers to widespread 5G deployment. Even as companies plow ahead with planned deployments in cities across the country by the end of the year, the U.S. still lags other countries in installing small cells. According to a Deloitte report released in August, China has outspent the U.S. by $24 billion in 5G infrastructure since 2015. A separate Accenture report released in July found that easing infrastructure requirements for 5G could boost the U.S. GDP by $100 billion by quickening the applications of 5G, like connected vehicles and smart grid technology.
The FCC has tried to knock down some of those roadblocks; the agency voted on a plan that makes it easier to put small cells on utility poles. The new proposal — built on laws passed by 20 states — would further eliminate regulatory barriers to allow carriers and municipalities to get 5G networks online.
The site of Carr’s announcement — Indiana’s statehouse in Indianapolis — was no accident. He praised the state for its "innovative leadership" in 5G and noted that "Indianapolis, not New York, not San Francisco is number one in the country for most intensive 5G investment." Verizon has announced that Indianapolis will be one of its first four 5G cities this year, and AT&T will launch both there and in South Bend, IN.
Carr noted that the streamlining proposal was necessary to ensure that more than just the “must serve” cities like New York and San Francisco get a “fair shot at 5G,” by removing barriers that would make carriers look past more challenging and less populated areas.