Cities challenge FCC over 5G rollout

Cities challenge FCC over 5G rollout
© Greg Nash

More than 20 cities and counties asked a federal appeals court to block a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule limiting what local authorities can charge telecom companies for installing cell sites for 5G wireless networks.

Three separate lawsuits were filed Wednesday and Thursday by nearly two dozen cities, including Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; and San Jose, California.

The new rule limits municipal authorities to charging $270 per cell site per year, which the FCC argues will free up $2 billion in capital for wireless providers to use in underserved areas like rural communities.


But critics charge that the rule amounts to a massive handout to telecom giants, with no incentive or requirement for them to use the funds on deployment to new areas.

The order also imposes a “shot clock” limiting how long authorities can take to review installation requests.

The measure may be the most controversial of the government’s early efforts to lay the groundwork for 5G, the highly-touted upgrade to the country’s wireless networks.

Unlike the current 4G networks, which rely on signals that transmit for miles by large cell towers, 5G will need small cell sites every few hundred feet to broadcast its short-range signals.

That will require a massive deployment of hardware across the country and local authorities are worried that they’re being pushed out of the process.

A spokeswoman for the FCC did not immediately respond when asked for comment.