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5G Wireless: How It Changes Local Regulatory Environments

Dominating the next generation of wireless technology, known as 5G, is a high-stakes competition taking place on a global scale. The FCC recently adopted a “Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order” that brings the impact of this global race to every local community. The Ruling is designed to facilitate rapid and expansive 5G rollout by limiting local government regulation of the installation and deployment of small cell wireless infrastructure in local communities. The Ruling lowers the costs for applicants, shortens the timeline for government approvals, and broadens the scope of potentially prohibited regulatory fees, charges and non-fees, such as aesthetic, undergrounding and minimum spacing requirements.

5G requires a vast network of thousands of small cells that utilize lower-powered, miniature antennas and signal receivers. Due to the short-distanced nature of their signals, small cells need to be deployed in close proximity to each other. And therein lies the problem: telecommunication providers often desire to attach equipment to existing infrastructure that is in the public right-of-way, such as street light poles and utility poles, or newly constructed stand-alone poles. However, the public right-of-way has traditionally been strongly regulated by local governments in order to ensure public access, enjoyment and use of the right-of-way.

Meyers Nave attorneys Steve Burke and Claire Lai published an article in the June 2019 issue of North County Lawyer that helps local governments understand the FCC’s new parameters when drafting, updating and enforcing their ordinances. Steve and Claire’s article includes an important table that outlines the Ruling’s new requirements and restrictions. Please click here to read their article.