In a move that officials say will substantially increase broadband infrastructure projects across the country, the Federal Communications Commission is set to issue a new set of rulings governing the use of public right-of-ways.
The working draft, Declaratory Ruling and Order, will push for exempting some projects from environmental and historic preservation reviews, while also limiting aesthetic requirements.
The draft will also address the increasingly contentious issue of state and local government fees specific to new broadband infrastructure projects.
Industry leaders in recent years have charged that such fees have been used as a means of raising revenue for local and state governments, and have increasingly become an impediment to the building of new infrastructure.
If the FCC’s new proposed guidelines become official, says Forbes magazine, they could “stimulate $2.4 billion in additional infrastructure investment” that would provide high-speed coverage to “an additional 1.8 million homes, primarily in rural and suburban communities.”
The new guidelines will also establish what are known as “shot clocks,” requiring that state and local governments must respond within 60 days to applications for existing facilities, and 90 days for new construction.
In a statement, Tom Cochran, the executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said that group strongly opposes the FCC’s move to “grant communications service providers subsidized access to local public property and to dictate how local governments manage their own local rights-of-way and public property.”
Cochran added: “This unprecedented federal intrusion into local and state government property rights will have substantial adverse impacts on cities and their taxpayers, including reduced funding for essential local government services, as well as an increased risk of right-of-way and other public safety hazards.”
The new FCC guidelines are expected to be announced on September 26.
By Garry Boulard
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