The FCC Wednesday gave states and localities a shot clock for approving wireless industry applications for construction and installation of new facilities.
The vote was 5-0 for the item.
The deadline for co-locating facilities on existing towers will be 90 days, and 150 days for new tower sites, both of which are presumed to be the reasonable time frame for acting on such requests.
After that time, wireless companies can go to court, but no applications will be presumed granted just because those deadlines have been passed. States and localities will be able to rebut that presumption with facts from individual cases.
The decision is meant, in part, to help speed the rollout of wireless broadband, including services making use of the re-auctioned 700 mHz spectrum reclaimed from broadcasters in the DTV transition.
FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, who said the item struck an elegant balance, said he hoped that the decision would allow wireless companies calling for lots more spectrum to get more efficiencies out of the spectrum they already have.
Commissioner Michael Copps also praised the decision. He pointed out that he has in the past opposed what he saw as FCC efforts to usurp state and local authority, citing specifically his opposition to the 2006 decision to speed cable franchising decisions--which included its own shot clock. But in this case, he said, the item allowed states and localities to retain their power. He also pointed out that there was no presumption that an application was granted if the shot clock expired, as there was in the cable item and as the wireless industry had sought.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski thanked the Wireless Bureau for its fast work on the item, which he signaled at a speech to the wireless industry in October was in the works.
He said mobile can advance education, health care and more, and that spectrum policy will be an important element of the broadband plan.
Genachowksi said 4G nets are ready to roll and will boost broadband speeds to rival those of fixed broadband.
Accelerating deployment of these new networks is a critical goal for the nation, said the chairman. Sometimes the FCC needs to act to provide rules of the road, and this is one of those times, he added.
Genachowski said delays exist in too many states and localities, including applications pending for years, citing stats from CTIA: The Wireless Association. He gave a shout-out to CTIA for petitioning for the shot clock.
He said the decision simply requires decisions in a timely, justifiable fashion. He called the rules "amply sufficient to the task."CTIA, which petitioned for the shot clock, said the FCC had provided "much-needed certainty" to the process. "We sincerely appreciate the Commission and the Chairman for quickly acting to fulfill this promise," said CTIA president Steve Largent in a statement.
AT&T had nice things to say as well. "In approving this important reform today, Chairman Genachowski and the Commission have provided tremendous support for the effort to bring more mobile broadband to consumers," said senior vice president Robert Quinn, also in a statement.