To be candid, I typically find panels that discuss regulatory updates at wireless conferences a bit dry.  However, I attended a good one two weeks ago at the South Wireless Summit in Nashville, Tennessee that discussed recent rule changes by the FCC.  The panel consisted of Marvin Webster of ECA, Woo Lim of Terracon and Doug Butler of Trileaf.  They did a good job of keeping it short, sweet and relevant.

After the conference, I connected with Marvin who shared with me two summaries that are posted online.  These are both excellent overviews of changes made by the FCC.

As these two summaries highlight, the FCC has:

  1. defined five specific characteristics that exempt small cells from NEPA and NHPA;
  2. streamlined procedures for filing Environmental Assessments (EAs);
  3. created a new Tribal Consultation Shot Clock; and
  4. clarified that applicants do not have to pay up-front review fees when providing tribes an opportunity to comment on proposed deployments.

Obviously, these are all very favorable for wireless deployments in the USA, especially as we gear-up for 5G.  However, the dust stirred up by these changes has not yet settled. As the industry moves forward and begins to apply these new rules I expect to see some challenges. 

These rules were passed 3-2 along party lines in a divisive political climate, strip away a revenue source for tribal consultations, and among other things, indicate a rebalancing of the approval process for wireless deployments.  

It is hard to imagine the dust settling quickly.