Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on November 18, 2009
With network neutrality rules in the works and an investigation into handset exclusivity deals underway, the Federal Communications Commission has not been a great favorite of the wireless industry of late. But today the FCC threw carriers a badly wanted sop with new rules that require state and local governments to speed up action on applications for wireless tower locations.
The unanimous “declaratory ruling” made good on a promise FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made in an otherwise coolly received speech at an industry conference in early October. Under the new rules, state and local governments must act within 90 days of receiving an application for a co-location, that is, a tower site to be shared with other operators, and 150 days for other applications. Carriers have complained that governments are frustrating their efforts to improve coverage by sitting on tower applications indefinitely.
The FCC also ruled that state or local governments may not use the fact that wireless service is available from another carrier as ground for rejecting an application. And they may not require a zoning variance for every cell site.