LEGAL/POLICY

FCC Wins Court Battle Over 5G Site Regulation

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A US court largely dismissed a lawsuit challenging Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations intended to speed deployments of 5G small cells, drawing praise from the domestic mobile industry.

At issue in the case were infrastructure rules approved by the FCC in September 2018 which, among other things, limited the amount of time allowed for local review of applications for small cell placement and capped municipal fees associated with such permits.

Though the regulations aimed to eliminate hurdles to 5G rollouts, local authorities balked. In October 2018, more than a dozen cities joined a lawsuit challenging the FCC’s rules on the basis the agency exceeded its legal authority and its orders were “arbitrary and capricious”.

In a decision issued 12 August, the court upheld the FCC’s rules related to fee caps and application review deadlines, but ordered it to revisit other restrictions placed on aesthetic reviews.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement called the decision a “massive victory” over “short-sighted efforts by those seeking to obstruct 5G deployment”. He added the affirmation of national infrastructure policy coupled with scheduled mid-band spectrum auctions left the country “well-positioned to extend its global lead in 5G”.

Industry groups CTIA and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) also applauded the ruling, with CCA chief Steven Berry noting it will ensure “outlier regulations do not inhibit deployment” of next-generation services. 

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