The Small Cell Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order adopted by the FCC
September 26th became a Federal Register filing October 12th and becomes effective
January 14, 2019. Here’s a summary of how we got here and what the law says. Size,
cost, time, and process are the substance of the discussion.
FCC Small Cell Order (Adopted September 26, 2018)
After almost two years of consideration (Mobilitie & BDAC), on Wednesday, September
26th, the FCC approved a Declaratory Ruling and 3rd Report and Order regarding
acceleration of wireless infrastructure deployment through relaxation of barriers,
affecting the local permitting process. This is a summary of that text.
In recent years the wireless industry has developed technology that facilitates improved
coverage and capacity to densely occupied neighbors without the necessity to install tall
towers and equipment buildings at each antenna site. Fiber optic cable is necessary to
connect small antennas and a small associated equipment box to network facilities.
The size of ‘small’ has been defined in recent years through certain state laws and by
amendment to the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless
Antennas (NPA) between the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the
National Conference of State Historical Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), and the FCC.
The NPA specifically regards historic properties and designated historic districts. Sizewise,
the NPA defines a small cell antenna with/without an enclosure as no more than
three (3) cubic feet in volume or six (6) cubic feet (for multiple antennas).
Equipment associated with small antennas can’t exceed twenty-one (21) cubic feet in volume.
The Colorado Small Cell Law defines small cell antennas as existing in three (3) cubic feet
or less space with associated equipment within seventeen (17) cubic feet space or less.
Consistent with the FCC’s March 2018 ruling excluding small cell facilities on non-tribal
lands from National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental
Protection Act (NEPA) reviews, the new FCC Report and Order defines small cell
antennas as three (3) cubic feet or less space and associated equipment as twenty-eight
(28) cubic feet or less. Small cell structures are defined as being fifty feet (50’) or
less in height and no more than ten percent (10%) higher than its existing height or that
of adjacent structures.
The Report and Order further sets the shot clock for jurisdictions to take action on one or
more small cell facility collocations in a single application at 60 days (30 days less than for
a single macro site) and the new construction of one or more small cells in a single application
at 90 days (60 days less than for a single macro site) not including time it takes for an applicant
to complete an application upon request.
The Declaratory Ruling clarifies and updates the FCC’s authority with respect to state or
local fees on infrastructure that prohibit the provision of wireless service. It states that
only fees that approximate the objective cost to a jurisdiction and are no higher than
fees charged in similar situations to competitors are allowed and non-discriminatory. It
further proposes fee levels, that the FCC presumes would be allowed for two situations;
being $500 for a single application of up to five small cell facilities plus $100 for each
additional small facility over five and $270 annually per small cell facility for all recurring
fees including ROW access or attachments to jurisdiction-owned structures in the ROW.
These numbers do not preclude the possibility of higher fees being assessed, just so long
as they approximate the objective cost and are non-discriminatory.
The FCC provided for this Ruling and 3rd Report and Order to become effective (90
days after it is published in the Federal Register) on January 14, 2019.
By John Rowe- Regulatory Chairman, Colorado Wireless Association (written 10/2/18, released 11/26/18)