Carriers clamor for FCC oversight of state- and city-level small cell fees

AT&T small cell (AT&T)
Carriers like AT&T continue to work to deploy small cells to improve their networks. (AT&T)

The nation’s wireless carriers continue to petition the FCC to issue guidelines to states and cities about how much they should charge for small cell deployments and other network upgrades.

“Many municipalities unfortunately continue to demand exorbitant fees for access to rights-of-way and structures within them, including, for example, attachment fees that exceed $4,000 per year,” Verizon wrote in a recent filing. “Some cities, where providers may have a competitive necessity to offer service, continue to use their considerable leverage to seek fees that far exceed their costs.”

Verizon continued: “A number of Florida cities have imposed moratoria on small cell applications, and other cities’ refusal to accept or process applications results in de facto moratoria. A policy that ensures that fees are reasonable and cost-based and that localities act quickly on applications will best further the Commission’s goals of ensuring fast and far-reaching deployment of advanced wireless services.”

Mobile World Congress 2019

Attend the 2-Day Executive 5G Panel Series

FierceWireless is returning to Barcelona, Spain, during Mobile World Congress 2019 with a two-day Executive 5G Panel Series at the Fira Congress Hotel, conveniently located across the street from the MWC Convention Center. The panel events will take place on Feb. 25-26 and will cover 5G and The Fixed Wireless Access Opportunity, Taking 5G Indoors, and Making 5G Ubiquitous. Attendees will have the opportunity to network and hear from 5G leaders including Verizon, Vodafone, Orange, Sprint, NTT Docomo, Boingo Wireless, Qualcomm, and more over the course of two days.

Secure your spot at the event today! Now is your chance to join fellow industry professionals for networking and education. Registration information and the schedule can be found on the website here.

Verizon isn’t alone in urging the FCC to step into their local problems. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all made similar filings.

“We further urged the Commission to ensure that fees charged by state and local governments are cost-based, nondiscriminatory, and publicly available,” T-Mobile noted in its own filing.

In its filing, Sprint offered a suggestion for the fees that the FCC should require states and cities to charge for access to city-owned infrastructure:

  • Application Fee: $500 per batch for up to five sites, with a $50-per-site fee thereafter
  • Right-of-Way Usage Fee for New Poles in Public Rights of Way: $50 per year
  • Attachment Fee to Attach to Publicly Owned Vertical Structures: $50 per year

Sprint argued that those prices largely dovetail with the fees laid out in legislation now passed in 20 different states aimed at reducing the fees that carriers pay for small cell deployments, and reducing the amount of time it takes for small cells to be deployed. Indeed, just last week the Wireless Infrastructure Association pointed out that Hawaii Gov. David Ige recently signed into law legislation that “establishes a process to upgrade and support next-generation wireless broadband infrastructure throughout the State.”

RELATED: FCC considers small cell guidelines for states

Already, some FCC commissioners appear to be in lockstep with the wireless industry on the topic. For example, Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said in May that the FCC next plans to look at city and state rules that are hindering the rollout of small cells. He said the agency would move against “bad actors”: cities and states that are seeking to charge wireless operators unreasonable fees to deploy small cells or are moving too slowly on the topic. “We’ve tried the nice approach,” O’Rielly said at the time. Now, “we’ll have to take the aggressive route, and I’m completely comfortable in doing so.”