Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a declaratory ruling that clarifies the Commission’s rules regarding eligible facilities requests. Specifically, the FCC’s action today clarifies when the 60-day shot clock for eligible service requests actually begins to toll, clarifies a variety of aspects regarding when a request would constitute a substantial change and makes clear that an environmental assessments are not needed when parties agree on conditions to mitigate effects on historic properties.

The Section 6409 process was designed to limit regulatory barriers when an application to deploy wireless infrastructure would not substantially change the physical dimension of a facility, but uncertainty regarding Commission rules threatens to derail this process and limit private investment. The declaratory ruling today eliminates much of this uncertainty, clearly defining the parameters of the eligible facilities requests and a locality’s authority in reviewing and approving the application.

“The declaratory ruling is critical to ensuring that carriers can upgrade their existing infrastructure to support 5G services.” said Jeffrey Westling, fellow at the R Street Institute. “Deploying the necessary infrastructure for 5G networks requires massive investments, and reducing the regulatory barriers and the subsequent uncertainty these barriers cause will help facilitate the continued private investment we need to upgrade America’s networks.”

The R Street Institute has long worked to reduce local barriers to broadband deployment, and we fully support the Commission’s action today.