Cities Fight FCC Grab for Public Rights-of-Way

The Federal Communications Commission wants to override municipal restrictions on wireless facility installations in public rights-of-way, making it easier and cheaper for commercial carriers to install their infrastructure in neighborhoods, while a coalition of municipal groups opposes the latest power grab by the agency.

According to Public CEO:

Such a move, the local government organizations say, would lead to the loss of billions of dollars in much needed cost-recovery fees for cities and counties. The organizations said zoning and right-of-way management are purely local matters and the federal government should stay out.

Glendale, San Francisco, and other municipalities have enacted ordinances restricting facilities in the public right-of-way, as citizens have expressed significant concerns and opposition to such installations. T-Mobile is currently suing the city of San Francisco over its new public right-of-way rules; it has also filed suit over specific permit denials or reversals, ignoring local residents’ strong objections.

The FCC’s “Shot-Clock” rule setting time limits for cities to decide on wireless application permits, was enacted in late 2009 in spite of strong municipal protests. This existing rule also helps them bypass opposition in communities all over the country to cell towers and other wireless telecommunications facility installations. Arlington, Texas filed suit in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the FCC ruling, and Glendale is a party to that suit.