FCC Seeks Comment on Barriers to Infrastructure Investment

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Notice of Inquiry, and Request for Comment that would propose to remove regulatory barriers to wireline infrastructure investment, as well as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry that commences an examination of the regulatory impediments to wireless network infrastructure investment and deployment.

ACCELERATING WIRELINE DEPLOYMENT

Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment (WC Docket No. 17-84),” will be used by the FCC to evaluate reforms that will help accelerate deployment of next-generation networks and services by removing barriers to infrastructure investment at the federal, state, and local level.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would seek comment on the following:

  • Pole attachment reforms to make it easier for broadband providers to attach the wires necessary for next-generation networks, including:
    • Adopting a streamlined timeframe for gaining access to utility poles by using elements of municipal “one-touch, make-ready” rules
    • Reducing charges paid by attachers to utilities for work done to make a pole ready for new attachments
    • Ensuring that pole attachers are not charged multiple times for certain capital costs
    • Establishing a shot clock for Commission consideration of pole attachment complaints
    • Adopting a formula for computing the maximum pole attachment rate for incumbent local exchange carriers
    • Adopting rules that would allow for all local carriers (local exchange carriers, or LECs) to demand reciprocal access on other LEC-owned poles.
  • Expediting the process for LECs to retire copper networks and provide notice of network changes by:
    • Streamlining copper retirement and reducing associated regulatory burdens to facilitate more rapid transition to IP networks
    • Streamlining and/or eliminating provisions of network change notification rules that may no longer be necessary
    • Eliminating rules requiring carriers to spend money to maintain outdated equipment
    • Streamlining the approval process for discontinuance of legacy services.

The Notice of Inquiry seeks comment on using the FCC’s preemption authority to prospectively prohibit the enforcement of state and local laws that pose barriers to broadband deployment.

The Request for Comment seeks input on when carriers must obtain FCC permission to alter or discontinue a service.

Comments are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and reply comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

ACCELERATING WIRELESS DEPLOYMENT

Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment (WT Docket No. 17-79); Revising the Historic Preservation Review Process for Wireless Facility Deployments (WT 2 Docket No. 15-180) begins an examination of how state and local processes affect the speed and cost of infrastructure deployment, and asks for comment on improving state and local infrastructure reviews, such as zoning requests.  Among other things, the NPRM seeks comment on whether siting applications that are not acted on by state or local governments within a reasonable period of time should be “deemed granted” by Commission rules.

The NPRM also examines FCC rules and procedures for complying with the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act.  The Commission seeks input on the costs and benefits inherent in the historic preservation and environmental review processes as currently structured and asks what changes could be made to minimize costs and delays.

In the Notice of Inquiry adopted today, the Commission asks for comment on two provisions of the Communications Act, Sections 253 and 332, that acknowledge the importance of state and local regulation, but also protect against regulations that impose barriers to entry or are otherwise unreasonable.

Current and next-generation wireless broadband have the potential to bring enormous benefits to the U.S., supporting millions of jobs and billions of dollars in investment.  In order to continue to meet demand and to achieve the potential of next-generation services, wireless providers will depend on having a regulatory framework that promotes and facilitates network infrastructure deployment.

Comments are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and reply comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.