CHARLOTTE, N.C. – FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said today that the “nice approach” to dealing with “bad actors” among states and localities that are making it difficult for companies to deploy wireless infrastructure hasn’t worked, and he said the FCC now has to get “aggressive.”
During a one-on-one keynote session this morning here at the 2018 Connectivity Expo, which was organized by the Wireless Infrastructure Association, Mr. O’Rielly said that he would like to see the FCC act this summer “on state and local barriers to deployment.”
“We should applaud the good communities that are forward-leaning and want to see deployment within their communities. We also have to exercise FCC authority to get those communities that are, what I refer to as, bad actors out of the way,” the Commissioner said.
He said there are “two flavors of problems”: states and localities that attempt “to extract as much financial wherewithal” through fees from companies that want to deploy infrastructure, and states and localities that either don’t have a process or have a “slow process for approving the deployment and installation of new technology that’s needed in this space.” Some localities are guilty on both of these counts, he suggested.
Kathleen Abernathy, a former FCC Commissioner and special counsel at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, asked Mr. O’Rielly what tools the FCC has to address the problems.
“We’ve tried the nice approach. You know, we’ve tried cajoling states to do the right thing and localities to do the right thing. It hasn’t exactly worked. … We’ve had increasing problems,” he replied, adding that he wants the Commission to use “our statutory authority provided by Congress to push bad actors out of the way and take affirmative action by the Commission.”
He acknowledged that some people suggest this course of action would violate federalism principles … but I’ve got a larger goal, and that is making sure that the citizens are served. … We’ve tried the nicer route. I think we’re now … going to take the aggressive route, and I’m completely comfortable doing so.”
Mr. O’Rielly also acknowledged that states and localities are facing fiscal restraints, noting, for example, that some states divert 911 fees for other purposes.
“I get that there’s financial pressure. There’s financial pressure everywhere. There’s financial pressure in my own home,” he said.
Mr. O’Rielly also discussed various spectrum proceedings and 5G deployment, and said that the U.S. is “well positioned, in my opinion, to be very successful in that competition,” even though he noted that some countries use “industrial policy,” including making huge government investments in telecom networks.
In the 3.5 gigahertz Citizens Broadband Radio Service, he noted that the geographic size of licenses is a large remaining issue. “It’s something we’re working very hard to finalize,” he said.
He also noted that the FCC is exploring freeing up at least some of the 3.7-4.2 GHz C-band band C-band for terrestrial broadband use, while the Department of Defense plans to study the feasibility of repurposing the 3450-3550 megahertz band.
He also observed that he has pushed the FCC to consider reallocating the 4.9 GHz band for commercial use, noting that only 3% is being used by public safety. “There is no great plan” for the band, he said. “Maybe 4.9 [GHz] doesn’t make sense any more for them to have it.”
He also reiterated the potential of the 5.9 GHz band currently allocated for dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) applications.
Mr. O’Rielly also observed the FCC’s work on auctioning and otherwise making progress on millimeter-wave band spectrum, and he said he asks parties for suggestions on “new scouting activities” to make other spectrum available –— licensed and unlicensed. —-Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org
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