Appeals Court says FCC has authority to streamline tower and small cell deployments

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Via FierceWireless

December 21, 2015 | By Sue Marek

In what is being viewed as a victory for wireless operators and tower companies, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled Dec. 18 that the FCC has the authority to make it easier for tower sites, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and small cells to be deployed by preventing local authorities from hindering the permitting review process. Specifically, local municipalities cannot deny requests to modify wireless equipment if it doesn’t substantially change the physical footprint of that equipment.

Several cities and counties, including Montgomery County, Md., and others, sued the FCC over its implementation of an October 2014 order in which the commission approved new rules designed to accelerate the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

Specifically, the FCC approved changes to the federal environmental review process to make it easier to deploy small cells as well as collocated equipment. Under the rules, the equipment includes not only gear on buildings and cell towers but also utility poles. The rules also exclude equipment associated with antennas, including wires and cables, from counting against a deployment.

The municipalities said the FCC’s order was unconstitutional, arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise illegal. They also claimed that the FCC’s order violated the 10th Amendment and that it unreasonably defines several terms of the Spectrum Act, according to a Multichannel News report.

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