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FCC Seeks Comment on Wireless Facilities Siting and Rights-of-Way

April 14, 2011

FCC Seeks Comment on Wireless Facilities Siting and Rights-of-Way

April 14, 2011

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) requesting comment on how the agency can work with federal, state, and private sector stakeholders to improve policies for access to public rights-of-way and for wireless facility siting. Comments are due 60 days after Federal Register publication, which has not yet occurred, and reply comments are due 105 days after Federal Register publication.

While this proceeding is focused primarily on issues associated with the deployment of broadband services by commercial providers in public rights-of-way, the FCC notes that utilities and other private entities own and control private rights-of-way that are used for broadband and other communications facilities. Thus, the FCC specifically seeks input on how issues that arise in the context of private rights-of-way or tower sites might be helpful to the FCC in achieving a complete understanding of similar issues in public rights-of-way.

In its 2010 National Broadband Plan, the FCC made several recommendations for improving and streamlining access to rights-of-ways. Among other things, the National Broadband Plan stated that because local, state, tribal, and federal governments control access to important rights-of-way and facilities, a comprehensive broadband infrastructure policy requires a coordinated effort among all levels of government. The National Broadband Plan also recommended that the FCC develop guidelines for public rights-of-way policies that will ensure that best practices from state and local governments are applied nationally. As a result, the FCC has issued an NOI to explore what, if any, specific steps the FCC can take to identify and reduce unnecessary obstacles to obtaining access to rights-of-way and siting wireless facilities, including efforts to:

  • Identify and promote best practices and increase uniformity with respect to public rights-of-way and wireless facilities siting practices and policies;
  • Make specific recommendations to Congress and the Administration;
  • Sponsor voluntary mediation of public rights-of-way or wireless facilities siting disputes between state or local officials and industry;
  • Adopt policy guidelines and rules, or adjudicate rights-of-way cases.

The FCC’s NOI is intended to update the agency’s understanding of current rights-of-way and wireless facilities siting policy issues. The FCC seeks a detailed record of the nature and scope of broadband deployment issues, including both best practices that have promoted deployment and matters that have resulted in delays.

The FCC requests comment on some of the following issues:

  • Timeliness and Ease of Permitting Process
  • Reasonableness of Charges
  • State Statutes and Local Ordinances
  • Consistent or Discriminatory Treatment
  • Presence or Absence of Uniformity in Practices and Rates
  • Options to Address Areas of Concern


The opinions expressed are those of the authors on the date noted above and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fish & Richardson P.C., any other of its lawyers, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This post is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed.