AT&T cheers FCC's forthcoming moves to speed up wireless infrastructure deployment

AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) indicated it is pleased that the FCC is poised to take steps to accelerate the deployment of wireless network infrastructure, including small cells. Although the FCC has not fully detailed what steps it will take, AT&T is giving strong hints of what will in the draft order--and that it likes what it sees.

In a company blog post, Joan Marsh, AT&T's vice president of federal regulatory, wrote that modernizing rules for deploying infrastructure is "essential, as the current requirements inhibit efficient broadband deployment, particularly given the continued movement by the wireless industry toward more low profile antennas and equipment and builds on existing non-tower structures."

At its Oct. 17 open meeting the FCC will consider a Report and Order to promote the deployment of wireless infrastructure. The item was circulated among the commissioners last week.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a recent blog post that Distributed Antenna System networks and other small-cell systems "use components that are a fraction of the size of traditional macrocells and can be installed--unobtrusively--on utility poles, buildings, and other existing structures." He noted that the draft order crafts "a far more efficient process for small deployments that do not trigger concerns about environmental protection or historic preservation."

AT&T has committed to deploying more than 40,000 low-power small cells by the end of 2015 as part of its Project Velocity IP program. Marsh wrote that the draft order is expected to contain rule changes that "will expedite environmental and historic preservation review of new and modified wireless facilities."

"AT&T has long argued that streamlining facility siting for low profile antennas and associated small cell equipment will create significant incentives to expedite broadband deployment, particularly in highly congested or hard to deploy areas," Marsh wrote. "Protracted review of low profile small cell deployments is unnecessary and imposes unreasonable costs on licensees and structure owners alike who could otherwise invest those resources in network facilities."

Marsh added that AT&T expects the order to "permit the collocation of new antennae without additional approvals in certain limited circumstances, for example on rooftops where a visible antenna already exists or within close proximity to an existing antenna array. And we expect the item to clarify certain statutory definitions that create new opportunities for efficient infrastructure builds."

Wheeler also wrote that the draft order implements "federal statutory directives that are intended to make state and local review more efficient for wireless deployments and modifications that are highly unlikely to affect local communities. At the same time, it preserves our commitment to safeguarding the essential roles that state, local and tribal governments play in this process."

Marsh noted that AT&T believes the item "will provide much needed clarification of certain federal statutes that were enacted to streamline state and local review of wireless infrastructure proposals."

For more:
- see this AT&T blog post

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