FCC to consider how to ‘facilitate mobile broadband deployment’ during next open meeting

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As the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, settles into his role at the agency that regulates the telecom industry, he appears to be keen on finding ways to make sure that wireless technology will continue to advance.

Specifically, the agency announced that it will consider cellular service reform during its next opening meeting, scheduled for March 23. “The Commission will consider a Second Report and Order, Report and Order, and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would facilitate mobile broadband deployment, including LTE, promote greater spectrum efficiency, and reduce regulatory burdens and costs,” the FCC said in a statement of the meeting agenda item.

While it’s somewhat unclear exactly what the FCC will discuss during its next meeting, the meeting notes refer to issues ranging from spectrum licensing issues to general telecommunications regulations. It’s likely the commission will discuss ways to potentially free up more spectrum and to ease the deployment process for new networks and cell sites.

Indeed, the inclusion of “cellular service reform” on the FCC’s meeting agenda comes just weeks after a high-ranking CTIA executive met with FCC officials to continue to push for streamlined policies for deploying small cells. “During the meeting, CTIA highlighted the importance of sound policies at the federal, state, and local levels to facilitate the rapid and efficient deployment of wireless infrastructure to support 4G LTE and 5G networks,” CTIA said of its meeting with FCC officials. “CTIA encouraged the Commission to adopt the proposals in its recently-released Small Cell Public Notice that would streamline local review of wireless infrastructure applications, clarify actions that prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting wireless service, and ensure that compensation for use of public rights of way is cost-based, fair, and reasonable.”

Wireless carriers have long complained of burdensome red tape hindering their network deployments, including the process for obtaining permission to build towers and small cells. Partly in response, the FCC acted in 2014 to develop new rules designed to accelerate the deployment of wireless infrastructure including small cells, Distributed Antenna Systems and other network equipment.

The FCC’s decision to discuss cellular service reforms also comes just days after Chairman Pai spoke at this week’s Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, explaining that he would take a “light touch” to telecom regulation. “From my perspective the key to maximizing our 5G future is first to maximize investments spent on broadband,” he told attendees. “Our approach will not be zero regulation, but light-touch regulation.”

President Trump replaced Tom Wheeler with Pai in late January.