24 Democrat members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to delay a vote on a Declaratory Ruling which would dilute local Government’s role in 5G.
Although those in the industry will cringe at the thought of another delay, the reasoning behind this one is certainly valid. In short, local Governments have enough on their plates dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Opinions on changes to the bureaucratic process for telecoms network deployment is not something which can be given full attention at this time.
“We are especially troubled by the burden responding to this Declaratory Ruling will place on local governments that are rightfully focused right now on combatting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” the letter states.
“Likewise, we worry that if this Declaratory Ruling does not benefit from meaningful input from local governments, the result could undermine municipalities’ ability to balance their responsibilities to public safety and community design with their desire to ensure access to affordable wireless networks and the next generation services.”
What remains to be seen is whether Pai and the FCC take this request on board. There have been broader political requests to offer more time and flexibility on consultation periods, but as the FCC is attempting to dilute the power and influence of local Government authorities, does it actually care about the opinion submissions?
The vote in question here, set to take place on June 9, aims to address several areas and ease the bureaucratic burdens which are placed on telecoms companies while upgrading existing networks. There are three areas which will be introduced in this document:
- A shot-clock for decision making for the local authorities
- Redefining what would be considered ‘substantial change’ to existing infrastructure, and therefore, what upgrades need to go through the application process
- Remove requirements for additional environmental impact studies for some work
The idea is to address a pain-point in the telecoms industry; burdensome bureaucracy. Applications and studies will of course always have their place, but there has been a worry too much red-tape has been introduced to the sector. Telcos complain it is time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive. It slows down network deployment, which will have to be accelerated as the country enters the 5G era.
This is of course an on-going challenge for the telecoms industry, and it is by no means limited to the US. Bureaucracy is a challenge all over the world as the balance between state oversight and corporate freedom is found. The FCC has identified this challenge and is attempting to empower the industry.
The request for a delay to the vote will not be well-received by the industry, however. The US might have been one of the first countries to launch 5G services, it is very debatable who was actually first, but it has since slipped down the pecking order. If it is to retain a leadership position, this will have to be corrected, and at some point, the US telcos will have to react to the aggressive deployment strategies from Chinese counterparts.