Long-awaited FCC streamlined wireless facilities siting rules finally published

In Associations News, Featured News by Wireless Estimator

The Federal Communications Commission provided wireless siting professionalsFCC-Tower-Siting-Rules with a post-holiday present today: the final rules for acceleration of broadband deployment by improving wireless facilities siting policies. But its ultimate impact upon municipalities and siting professionals may not be known for weeks to come as interested parties scour each word in the 121-page document that has changed some of the FCC’s report and order’s content released on October 21, 2014.

State Wireless Associations are assessing how the newly published rules will impact the industry. The California Wireless Association will be holding an educational session on the rules on Jan. 15, 2015.

Two siting attorneys contacted by Wireless Estimator said it would take them some time to compare the newly released rules to see what changes have been made from the original report and order, and how they affect the siting community.

The Commission, in its final rule which was published in the Federal Register today, provides long-sought definitions and clarifications.

The Commission concluded that “transmission equipment” should be broadly interpreted to ensure coverage for all wireless broadband services, including future services not yet contemplated.

It stated that “transmission equipment” will encompass antennas and other equipment associated with and necessary to their operation, including power supply cables and backup power equipment.

The commission also adopted the definitions of “tower” and “base station”.

A tower, according to the FCC, includes any structure built for the sole or primary purpose of supporting any Commission-licensed or authorized antennas and their associated facilities.

The Commission stated that the term “base station” includes any equipment associated with wireless communications service including, but not limited to, radio transceivers, antennas, coaxial or fiber-optic cable, regular and backup power supply, and comparable equipment.

The Commission also ruled that “base station” encompasses the relevant equipment in any technological configuration, including DAS and small cells.

The FCC also adopted a standard for determining when a proposed modification will “substantially change the physical dimensions” of an existing tower or base station if the modification meets any of the following criteria:

(1) for towers outside of public rights-of-way, it increases the height of the tower by more than 10%, or by the height of one additional antenna array with separation from the nearest existing antenna not to exceed twenty feet, whichever is greater; for those towers in the rights-of-way and for all base stations, it increases the height of the tower or base station by more than 10% or 10 feet, whichever is greater;

(2) for towers outside of public rights-of-way, it protrudes from the edge of the tower more than twenty feet, or more than the width of the tower structure at the level of the appurtenance, whichever is greater; for those towers in the rights-of-way and for all base stations, it protrudes from the edge of the structure more than six feet;

(3) it involves installation of more than the standard number of new equipment cabinets for the technology involved, but not to exceed four cabinets;

(4) it entails any excavation or deployment outside the current site of the tower or base station;

(5) it would defeat the existing concealment elements of the tower or base station; or

(6) it does not comply with conditions associated with the prior approval of construction or modification of the tower or base station unless the noncompliance is due to an increase in height, increase in width, addition of cabinets, or new excavation that does not exceed the corresponding “substantial change” thresholds identified above.

Today’s publication will trigger effective dates of 30 days for most rules, and 90 days for items related to Section 6409(a).

Some rules may require additional Office of Management and Budget approval.