NATOA and CWA File Report on Harmful Impacts of Preemption

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NATOA and CWA have filed with the FCC their report entitled Stretched Thin and Feeling the Squeeze: The Harmful Effects of Small Cell Preemption on Local Governments, along with a letter highlighting the impacts and safety issues discussed on a recent webinar.  The report demonstrates that the Commission’s preemptive actions have resulted in local taxpayers effectively subsidizing small cell deployments. All too often providers and their contractors treat the rights-of-way like the wild west, and as a result of the Commission’s preemptive actions, responsible municipal departments are stretched thin as they seek to protect public safety and property in a complex regulatory climateIn the more than two years that have passed since the Commission issued the small cell orders, it has become even clearer that a key premise underlying the orders—the alleged need to cap fees in “must-serve” areas to encourage deployment in others—is faulty. The FCC and Congress continue to recognize the need for government funds to address deployment in areas where the business case for building out 5G networks solely with private capital does not and will not exist despite the preemptive actions aimed at just that issue.  There is also an unaddressed incongruity in lauding the wireless industry paying $81 billion to the federal government to license spectrum for 5G while, just over two years ago, the Commission found that those same companies paying a purported $2 billion for use of a locally managed public asset—the rights of way—is so burdensome that it effectively prohibits them from providing services.  We applaud the Commission’s and Congress’s efforts to provide funding that is sorely needed to bring broadband to un- and underserved areas, as well as the Commission’s successful auctions that are providing much-needed spectrum for 5G services. And we fully support the Commission ensuring that the federal government gets market rates for use of spectrum.  However, these developments demonstrate the faulty premise on which preemptive actions rest.

NATOA urges the Commission to revisit these preemptive decisions, particularly the Commission’s 2018 small cell orders, which have limited local governments’ ability to meet the communications needs of their communities at a time when those needs have become more important than ever.