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Mayors vs. the FCC

by Martha DeGrasse

The mayors of San Jose, Austin and 34 other cities claim the FCC is more focused on "limiting local decision-making" than on removing barriers to broadband deployment. In a letter to the agency, the mayors said they are "calling for the support of the FCC as we seek to expedite the expansion of 5G infrastructure in our communities."


The municipalities have joined forces to form a group called Next Century Cities. Along with its letter to the FCC, Next Century Cities has released research that it funded to find out what city governments think about small cells, which are seen as the building blocks of 5G networks. The research found that most cities have either made provisions for small cells or plan to do so, but the overwhelming majority are worried about state laws that could pre-empt local authority.


Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Kansas, Virgina, Minnesota and Indiana have already passed laws pre-empting local authority over small cell installations on public property and/or the prices that cities can charge for access to that property. Cities are worried that the next law pre-empting their authority could come from the federal government.


"We are looking at a whole set of issues that come to state and locals ... and I expect that we'll be taking action there," FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told Network Builder Reports recently. Carr, the commissioner charged with overseeing the FCC's wireless infrastructure docket, said he does not want small cell deployments to become a "profit center" for municipalities.


"Obviously cities and municipalities need to be compensated for their costs, but the deployment itself, in my mind, is not what should be sort of a profit center or a money-making venture for cities because it strips capital out of more deployment," Carr said.


The mayors say profit is not the point and that they just want to recoup their costs. 


"Some communities are finding that the increased number of small cell applications and permits require the hiring of additional staff," the mayors said in their letter, adding that if they are limited in the amount they can charge for access to public property, their only choice is to cover costs by raising taxes. "By failing to charge a reasonable fee to companies wanting to use public space, such low limits are a de facto subsidization of private business by local taxpayers," the mayors wrote.


Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee


Next Century Cities is particularly concerned about statements made by the FCC's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, a group formed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to advise the commission on deployments that will provide high-speed internet access. The mayors see the writing on the wall and expect this committee to recommend pre-emption of local authority when it comes to small cells.


The BDAC is meant to include representatives from municipalities, industry and the federal government. One of the key municipal representatives on the committee, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, resigned recently.


"It has become abundantly clear that this body will simply serve to further telecom industry interests," Liccardo wrote in his resignation letter. "The apparent goal is to create a set of rules that will provide industry with easy access to publicly-funded infrastructure at taxpayer-subsidized rates, without any obligation to provide broadband access to underserved residents."


Liccardo has been called The Mayor from Hell by analyst John Strand, who claims that Liccardo never actually attended a single BDAC meeting and that the mayor is trying to charge exorbitant fees for access to city-owned poles. Strand believes that high rates for pole attachments will limit mobile operator investment in San Jose. 



Mobile operators have been less vocal about investments in San Jose than about investments in other Northern California cities. But San Jose is testing small cells through a partnership with Philips Corporation. Philips is installing LED street lights that also house Ericsson small cells. When the poles were installed, Liccardo said they would not cost taxpayers anything because Philips is monetizing the poles by renting the small cells to Verizon. 








Small Cell Market Forecast

Profiles of 19 small cell vendors plus total addressable market forecasts and predictions of the numbers of actual nodes that have been and will be deployed. Explanations of fronthaul, backhaul, CPRI, eICIC, and mobile network architecture. Discussion of the different types of small cell architectures, including outdoor distributed antenna systems (DAS.). Report produced by iGR Research.


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