TR Daily FCC, ACHP, NCSHPO Agree to Amend Collocation NPA
Monday, July 20, 2020

FCC, ACHP, NCSHPO Agree to Amend Collocation NPA

The FCC, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) have agreed to amend the 2001 nationwide programmatic agreement on wireless collocations by eliminating review of collocations as long as they don’t expand the boundaries of a tower site by more than 30 feet in any direction or involve excavation outside the expanded boundaries.

The amendment to the collocation NPA makes it consistent with a 2004 NPA for non-collocations that excludes from section 106 review of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) tower replacements involving “deployment and excavation by no more than 30 feet in any direction outside the boundaries of an existing tower site,” the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau said in a public notice today. It said the amendment will take effect when upon a “Federal Register” announcement.

“This is a vitally important agreement to ensure our infrastructure policies can meet the challenges and opportunities of 5G,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, the point person at the Commission on wireless infrastructure issues, said in a news release. “It represents a commonsense approach to encouraging collocations where tower replacements are not necessary. The FCC team and our partners at ACHP and NCSHPO worked closely, and I want to extend my thanks and appreciation for the time and good-faith efforts that enabled us to reach this agreement.”

“The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation appreciated the opportunity to work with the FCC and the National Conference on State Historic Preservation Officers in executing the amendment, which eliminates an inconsistency between FCC's two Nationwide Programmatic Agreements,” said Jaime Loichinger, assistant director of ACHP’s Office of Federal Agency Programs. “Making the provisions consistent should reduce the volume of Section 106 reviews for tower collocations with minimal to no potential to affect historic properties. It also should reduce the potential for adverse effects on historic properties by encouraging industry to meet critical infrastructure needs through collocation rather than new construction, where feasible.”

Last month, the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking on permissible “compound expansion” activities that can occur outside of wireless sites (TR Daily, June 9). It was adopted on a 3-2 vote, with Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks dissenting, along with a declaratory ruling to clarify rules adopted in 2014 implementing section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act, which was designed to make it easier to upgrade equipment on existing towers.

“WIA and the entire wireless infrastructure industry are elated that this successful collaboration will harmonize the rules so collocations on existing tower sites are allowed similar ground space expansion rights as permitted to the tower structure. This further clears the way for new wireless infrastructure to get upgraded quickly and efficiently in the race to 5G,” said Wireless Infrastructure Association Chairman David Weisman, who is chief executive officer of InSite Wireless Group LLC.

“This tremendous collaboration between the FCC, the ACHP, and NCSHPO is a breakthrough in the wall of obstacles to 5G. This action is the result of many years of diligent work by the agencies to promote using existing sites to accelerate broadband deployment and to upgrade networks to 5G services,” said WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “When combined with the FCC’s proposed compound expansion rulemaking, the road is cleared for the siting of generators, mobile edge computing, carrier collocations, competitive operator equipment, and more. In tandem with the rulemaking, it removes federal and local roadblocks for siting the equipment needed to maximize the benefits of 5G in the U.S. and win the global race to 5G.”

“We applaud Commissioner Carr, the ACHP, and NCSHPO for working together to modernize the rules to reflect the changing wireless landscape. Today’s action will enable industry to optimize deployments and make way for advancements that can enhance the consumer experience and benefit our new 5G economy,” said Scott Bergmann, senior vice president-regulatory affairs for CTIA.

“I commend the FCC for its amendment of the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless Antennas, which will help further improve infrastructure deployment around existing tower sites,” said Steve Berry, president and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association. “Streamlined infrastructure policies are critical for competitive carriers to be able to enhance and build out their networks, and I thank Chairman [Ajit] Pai and Commissioner Carr for their important work on wireless infrastructure issues. Consumers stand to benefit most from clear, efficient policies, and today’s announcement certainly is a step in the right direction toward achieving this important goal.”

Joan Marsh, executive vice president-regulatory & state external affairs for AT&T, Inc., said, “FCC Commissioner Carr has been a driving force behind establishing policies that enable timely and efficient deployment of critical wireless infrastructure for 5G. His leadership in this area has been invaluable and we welcome today’s announcement, which will help to streamline 5G builds, while maintaining protections for historic properties.”

Gerry Lederer, a partner at Best Best & Krieger LLP whose clients include local governments, said, “Commissioner Carr and the other parties are to be congratulated on reaching an agreement. It is always best when parties are all at the table and reach consensus. When it comes to wireless deployment policies, local government has been unsuccessful in making similar requests of the FCC only to be ignored time and again.

“The major issue that local government will have with the agreement is that some parties will say it means more than it actually does,” Mr. Lederer added. “It is important to note that nothing in this agreement negates the ability of local historic preservation, nor the need for local review of requested expansions of sites. The authority reserved to local governments in Section 332 over sites was not limited by Section 6409. We suspect that such overstatements will be included in industry filings in the 6409 NPRM docket on Wednesday.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews WirelessDeployment

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