- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes announced they will appeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to streamline rules on 5G infrastructure deployment.
- The pair said the decision, which was handed down last week, limits local control and will undermine efforts to address the digital divide, while also increasing costs due to a cap on fees that cities can charge telecom companies for infrastructure installation.
- "Seattle is working on innovative ways to lead on the deployment of next-gen technologies like 5G wireless networks," Durkan and Holmes said in a joint statement. "But we cannot support an Order that commandeers City resources for private gain, limits municipal control over its own resources, and tramples local concerns over safety and access."
After threats of legal action from the likes of San Jose, CA and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Seattle is the first to take concrete steps against the FCC’s ruling — but it may not be the last. It is significant that Seattle is the city taking action, after having been used by both Verizon and Sprint as a trial city for mobile 5G last year.
Seattle has agreements in place with several telecom companies to install infrastructure, with those fees helping pay for initiatives around closing the digital divide. Durkan and Holmes also said multiple city departments will be impacted by the order, including Parks and Recreation and Seattle City Light, among others. "We are particularly concerned about how the Order will compromise the safety, security, and reliability of critical electrical infrastructure, City Light’s utility poles,” the pair said in the statement.
During the FCC’s deliberations, Chairman Ajit Pai acknowledged that litigation is likely from cities, although he said their intentions might be less than pure in suing the federal authorities. "[Some localities] would like to continue extracting as much money as possible in fees from the private sector and forcing companies to navigate a maze of regulatory hurdles in order to deploy wireless infrastructure," Pai said.
Gerard Lederer, a partner at the Best Best & Krieger LLP law firm, warned at an event on 5G hosted by Politico that the FCC may regret not partnering more with state and local governments. With many considering their options, litigation and formal appeals might become more widespread — whether cities partner with Seattle or go it alone.