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FCC’s Rosenworcel Slams Spread of Fictional Stories of Cities Impeding 5G

Phillip Dampier June 12, 2018 Public Policy & Gov't, Wireless Broadband No Comments


Using “stitched-together” stories and caricature, lobbyists are finding an audience among Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission eager to sweep away local control of broadband infrastructure to allow wireless companies to locate equipment almost anywhere they want.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel warned attendees at the 86th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors that the ability of local communities to control what equipment ends up on municipally owned light and utility poles is at risk:

In our first city—which happens to be a fictional one—public infrastructure is dated. The city needs better broadband and wireless services. But city officials view improvements skeptically. They lack the policies and processes needed to clear the way for the deployment of fiber facilities, wireless towers, and small cells—all of which are essential digital age infrastructure. They delay applications for facilities siting. They charge big fees for access to municipal poles. And get this, these bad actors have the audacity to have public safety and aesthetic concerns.

Like I said, this city is fictional. It’s a caricature based on some outliers and stitched-together stories. But this city is the one dominating discussion in Washington. It’s unfortunately shaping the debate where I work—at the Federal Communications Commission. It’s animating our discussions about broadband deployment and how we ensure the next generation of wireless broadband known as 5G reaches everyone, everywhere. This narrative is priming the pump for Washington preempting cities and towns and preventing them from having a role in what is happening in their own backyards.

The wireless industry is backing a number of state measures that severely restrict local control and decision-making powers over wireless infrastructure and its placement. The coordinated campaign has relied heavily on dubious stories of local communities arbitrarily rejecting wireless infrastructure upgrades or seeking huge amounts of money in return for permission to place equipment on community-owned utility poles or street lights:

The telecommunications industry has stacked the deck on many levels of the debate over how much control local municipalities should have over locations for cell towers, small cells, backup battery cabinets, and other infrastructure, claiming cities want to extort confiscatory pole attachment fees, drag their feet on permitting, and impose arbitrary rules that delay the deployment of wireless upgrades.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) is heavily packed with telecom industry insiders and lobbyists. Only a small handful of members are local public officials. As a result, the industry-stacked committee quickly identified local communities as one of the biggest impediments of next generation broadband services like 5G, and prioritized recommendations for new policies designed to deregulate the process in favor of providers.

The Republican FCC chairman and commissioners frequently characterize this issue as ‘old rules’ getting in the way of new technology, like 5G, necessitating regulatory reform.

State lawmakers, often relying on information packages assembled by telecommunications companies, have introduced industry-drafted model bills dramatically curtailing local control over equipment placement and pole attachment pricing. In states like Tennessee, the debate was framed as an either/or choice of Tennessee receiving advanced 5G investment and deployment or watching companies choose more industry-friendly states for 5G services.

Rosenworcel acknowledged San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who resigned from BDAC after complaining it was heavily biased in favor of telecommunications companies. She praised Liccardo for independently streamlining provider access to poles for future 5G service with fair pricing and for developing new digital inclusion projects that will funnel some provider compensation into programs designed to achieve broader adoption of broadband services by the public.

For Rosenworcel, the fastest and most resilient way to broadband deployment is with a community on board.

“That’s because picking fights with cities and states promises to yield little more than a fast trip to the courts. It’s already happening with the FCC’s effort to redefine “federal actions” under the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act,” Rosenworcel said.

Rosenworcel recommends the FCC develop a new framework that spends less time on the lobbyists’ talking points and scare stories and instead relies on common sense cooperative coordination between companies, the FCC, and local communities.

“We can begin by developing model codes for small cell and 5G deployment—but we need to make sure they are supported by a wide range of industry and state and local officials,” Rosenworcel said. “Then we need to review every infrastructure grant program at the Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Transportation and build in incentives to use this model. In the process, we can build a more common set of practices nationwide. But to do so, we would use carrots instead of sticks.”

FCC’s Ajit Pai Promises to Protect Internet Consumers By Not Protecting Them

Christmas comes early for Comcast and AT&T, thanks to Ersatz Santa, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

In the view of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his Republican colleagues serving as members of the Federal Communications Commission, Monday – June 11, 2018 is Internet Freedom Day, marking the official end of net neutrality. Republican FCC commissioners, working hand-in-hand with the nation’s largest telecommunications companies, successfully abolished a pro-consumer rule that ensured all internet traffic was treated equally by your internet service provider, with a ban on paid fast lanes and other types of traffic discrimination. 

The FCC website has a new look today, one that discourages consumers from bringing internet-related complaints to an agency that has invited consumers to reach out about unresolved internet problems since the earliest days of internet access.

While much of the country is focused on the Republicans’ successful repeal of open internet protections, many might have missed the fact the FCC also intends to ‘pass the buck’ on your internet problems to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an agency that can take a year or more to bring action against companies suspected of violating the law.

Consumers who visit the FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center will find a stripped down resource that now primarily exists to forward consumer complaints to another federal agency. Chairman Pai has made certain the experience is as discouraging as possible for those who manage to find their way to the FCC’s complaint department (emphasis ours):

If you choose to file an informal complaint with the FCC about an Internet-related issue, we will share the information you provide, including your name and contact information, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Your complaint may be used to investigate cases or in a legal proceeding.

Before proceeding with your submission, please note that an informal consumer complaint should only be filed at the FCC if you have a specific issue with your provider.

If you are interested in submitting an informal complaint about an Internet-related issue, please complete this form.

The old form made no mention of the FTC, which is central to Pai’s new “hands off” policy at the FCC.

This morning, Pai told CBS that the Federal Trade Commission will now work to prevent such cases of “bad apples in the internet economy” from ripping off consumers.

“We’ve empowered the FTC to take action against any company that might act in any anti-competitive way,” said Pai. “The consumer is going to be protected and we preserve the incentive for companies to build out better, faster, and cheaper internet access. Consumers need to be protected and the FTC is the only one under current law that can do that.”

But Pai’s claims don’t ring true to Gigi Sohn, who served as a counselor to former FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler.


“Should consumers or innovators have a complaint about fraudulent, discriminatory, privacy violating or predatory pricing practices of broadband ISPs, the FCC won’t answer their call,” Sohn said. “For the first time since the creation of broadband, the agency will not take responsibility for protecting consumers or competition.”

Neither will the FTC, which warns would-be complainants upfront on its website: “The FTC cannot resolve individual complaints, but we can provide information about what next steps to take,” which is equivalent to calling the fire department because your house is on fire and receiving a booklet that explains how to acquire and use a hose to put the fire out yourself.

ISP’s no longer need fear having a federal agency like the FCC following every consumer complaint. The FTC claims it may share your complaint with local, state, federal, and foreign law enforcement partners, or may be used to investigate cases or hold a legal proceeding. But unlike the guidelines the FCC answered to under the Obama Administration, there is no requirement to force a provider to quickly respond to you, no easy access to statistics detailing received internet-related complaints (such as the tens of thousands of complaints about data caps, throttling, and net neutrality collected by the FCC under the last administration), and no significant likelihood of action. Want an example? The FTC has been charged with ending the scourge of automated robocalls that generated more than 275,000 complaints last year… from the state of Ohio alone. In the last two years, the FTC issued press releases touting cases brought against a total of three alleged telemarketers. Has your phone stopped ringing?

Under the Trump Administration’s FCC, it is open season on consumers, and the complaint department is now closed.

AT&T’s Curious Decision to Abandon Data Throttling Appeal to Supreme Court

Last week, AT&T announced its intention to abandon an appeal of a decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granting the Federal Trade Commission the right to continue its lawsuit against AT&T for speed throttling its “unlimited data” wireless customers.

The notification came in a surprising four sentence notice filed with the court May 30:

At the May 10, 2018 case management conference in this matter, AT&T informed the Court that it expected at that time to request a 60-day extension from the Supreme Court of the deadline to file a petition for certiorari. See Audio Recording of May 10, 2018 Hr’g at 7:22. Since that hearing, AT&T has decided not to request such an extension and not to file a petition for certiorari to review the decision of the en banc Ninth Circuit, see 883 F.3d 848 (9th Cir. 2018). The deadline to file a petition for certiorari lapsed on May 29, 2018.

AT&T spokesman Mike Balmoris later told reporters: “We have decided not to seek review by the Supreme Court, to focus instead on negotiating a fair resolution of the case with the Federal Trade Commission.”

AT&T’s sudden change of heart surprised many observers, including some closely following the case at the 9th Circuit, which has held regular court supervised meetings to prepare for the widely expected Supreme Court challenge. AT&T notified the court in early May it would file its appeal as soon as May 29, and the court was preparing new discovery guidelines and deadlines between the two parties as the case proceeded.

AT&T had achieved a major victory in 2017 when a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit agreed with AT&T’s argument that the FTC had no jurisdiction over the company because part of its business includes traditional telephone service, something defined in law as being regulated exclusively by the FCC. At the same time, the FCC did not seem to have jurisdiction either, because wireless data throttling took place over a network not subject to common carrier service regulations.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — San Francisco.

The Ninth Circuit then agreed to hear the case once again, this time “en banc” — meaning the full court would re-hear the case instead of a limited panel of three judges. In February, the court unanimously found the FTC did have regulatory jurisdiction over AT&T after all:

We conclude that the exemption in Section 5 of the FTC Act – “except . . . common carriers subject to the Acts to regulate commerce” – bars the FTC from regulating “common carriers” only to the extent that they engage in common-carriage activity. By extension, this interpretation means that the FTC may regulate common carriers’ non-common-carriage activities.

[…] This statutory interpretation also accords with common sense. The FTC is the leading federal consumer protection agency and, for many decades, has been the chief federal agency on privacy policy and enforcement. Permitting the FTC to oversee unfair and deceptive non-common-carriage practices of telecommunications companies has practical ramifications. New technologies have spawned new regulatory challenges. A phone company is no longer just a phone company. The transformation of information services and the ubiquity of digital technology mean that telecommunications operators have expanded into website operation, video distribution, news and entertainment production, interactive entertainment services and devices, home security and more. Reaffirming FTC jurisdiction over activities that fall outside of common-carrier services avoids regulatory gaps and provides consistency and predictability in regulatory enforcement.

In short, AT&T’s “get out of regulatory oversight free”-card was revoked, much to its consternation. The company promised a fast appeal to the Supreme Court. The case concerned a number of observers, not the least of which was the Federal Communications Commission, which has been so concerned about AT&T’s novel argument to escape regulation, it filed a brief supporting the FTC with the court:

If the en banc Court were to adopt AT&T’s position that the FTC Act’s common-carrier exception is “status-based” rather than “activity-based,” contrary to the reasoned analysis of the district court below, the fact that AT&T provides traditional common-carrier voice telephone service could potentially immunize the company from any FTC oversight of its noncommon-carrier offerings, even when the FCC lacks authority over those offerings—creating a potentially substantial regulatory gap where neither the FTC nor the FCC has regulatory authority.

That approach is contrary to a common-sense reading of the relevant statutes and could weaken or eliminate important consumer protections. While AT&T may prefer to offer services in a regulatory no man’s land, the law does not dance to AT&T’s whims.

While AT&T publicly expressed confidence about its appeal right up to the day it abandoned it, minutes from the Ninth Circuit trial scheduling and progress conferences reveal AT&T and the FTC were already privately talking with each other to avoid further litigation:

“Parties reported that they are conducting settlement negotiations.”

All observers agree a successful appeal by AT&T to the Supreme Court could have put telecommunications laws and regulations into chaos. Had AT&T successfully restored the three-judge panel’s decision, any telecommunications company could walk away with impunity from FCC and FTC oversight by simply starting a small telephone company serving just a handful of customers. Just one product or service subject to common carrier rules could effectively immunize a phone or cable company from regulations indefinitely, or until Congress changed the law to close that loophole.

Some observers predict AT&T’s decision not to appeal is a prelude to an imminent, favorable permanent settlement of the four-year old case. The evidence strongly suggests AT&T will likely escape any significant monetary punishment, and affected consumers may not get significant (if any) compensation for AT&T’s prior acts:

  • The FCC shows no sign of following through on a 2015 press release threatening AT&T with $100 million in fines for its failure to properly disclose its speed throttling policy arbitrarily imposed on unlimited data customers who exceeded a company-defined amount of data usage. At the time the press release was issued, there were three Democrats and two Republicans serving on the Commission. Both of those Republicans opposed the fine and are now part of the Republican majority at the FCC under the Trump Administration. The FCC admitted in court papers that no further action has been taken to fine AT&T. The case was largely left in the hands of the FTC.
  • During the Obama Administration, the FTC claimed it was interested in pursuing refunds for affected customers and punishing AT&T for its throttling practices. Last week, Andrew Smith, the FTC’s new director of the Consumer Protection Bureau told an audience today’s priority it to monitor providers over traffic throttling and making sure those practices are transparently disclosed to customers. “We’re planning to examine current practices in the industry,” Smith said. “We’re looking for areas in which ISPs may be engaged in unfair or deceptive practices, and we will bring enforcement action as appropriate.”


For AT&T, the decision to drop its appeal may have come down to whether it preferred to temporarily escape regulatory oversight until an enraged Congress passed new laws to put AT&T and other telecom companies back under oversight, or living with the kind of “light-to-little touch” regulatory approach favored by the Trump Administration and its regulatory agencies. Whatever deal emerges between AT&T and the Trump Administration’s FTC will likely be “win-win” for the company and the regulator, with consumers offered only token relief.

The goals likely to be achieved in any settlement:

  • AT&T would clearly like to avoid a $100 million fine and other enforcement actions, so agreeing to ease throttling (something it has done already) and better disclose the practice would hardly create a problem for the company, especially if fines are dropped as a result.
  • The FCC’s new “net neutrality” policy depends almost entirely on effectively abdicating oversight responsibility to the FTC, something embarrassing and hard to justify if AT&T managed to permanently bar the agency from regulating the company.
  • The FTC can claim victory by telling consumers they are watching ISPs for undisclosed and unwarranted throttling, without opening up new legal challenges by outright banning of the practice, heavily fining violators, or collecting damages on behalf of customers victimized by prior bad acts.

Senate Republicans Back Telecom Industry-Friendly Measure to Rush Merger Reviews

Phillip Dampier May 16, 2018 Competition, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

Sen. Lee

Several key Republicans are backing a corporate-friendly measure that would hurry the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Communications Commission through merger reviews, likely leading to less scrutiny of multi-billion dollar merger and acquisition deals that could ultimately cost consumers billions.

Retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are the key backers of the “Standard Merger and Acquisition Reviews Through Equal Rules (SMARTER) Act,” a bill that would amend the Clayton Act and Federal Trade Commission Act to align the standards and processes for the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) and Department of Justice’s (DOJ) review of proposed mergers and acquisitions.  The SMARTER Act claims it will eliminate bottlenecks that sometimes hold up merger reviews at the DOJ and FTC, and require agencies like the FCC to speed up merger reviews.

Sen. Hatch

Republicans claim corporations are being unfairly treated by excessive regulator scrutiny and delays of merger and acquisition transactions. Because different agencies have their own procedures about reviewing such deals, and federal agencies like the FCC are likely to put deals on hold when companies stonewall the Commission over document requests, Republicans are complaining about bureaucratic holdups. Supporters also claim that current delays associated with merger reviews “fuel politicization” of deals by politicians, consumer groups and media personalities, giving them time to organize public opposition and mount coordinated challenges.

Without a fully enforced shot clock, the FCC “creates uncertainty for transacting parties and effectively enables the FCC to evade judicial review,” bill supporters add.

The FCC already has a limit on open-ended merger reviews — its 180-day “shot clock” that requires mergers be approved or denied within six months. The FCC’s shot clock carried some built-in protection for its integrity, however, by including the power to pause the clock if companies attempted to “run out the clock” by slow-walking requested documents or stonewalling the Commission on other requests. The SMARTER Act would make it easier for companies facing a difficult review to wear down regulators by stripping away the agency’s power to put its shot clock on hold. Instead officials at the FCC would be required to make frequent trips to court to win permission from a judge to stop the clock while waiting for receipt of documents or reviewing merger objections. If the merger is ultimately turned down, the Republican bill also offers corporations the opportunity to streamline any court challenge by eliminating the step of first holding a FCC administrative law judge hearing.

Republicans have overwhelmingly favored The SMARTER Act, with Democrats almost universally opposed. In the previous Congress, House Republicans voted nearly unanimously for the bill. But the bill died after facing opposition in the then Democratic-held Senate. This term, Republicans control all branches of the federal government, giving the bill a better chance of becoming law.

Sen. Tillis

The SMARTER Act is heavily favored by the country’s top telecommunications companies, many that would directly benefit from its passage. No company would stand to benefit more than AT&T, which has seen several high-profile merger and acquisition cases fall apart before regulators. The bill strips away several layers of antitrust protection for consumers that were used to stop several multi-billion dollar telecom company mergers, and scared off others from trying.

The DOJ was instrumental in stopping AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile, and combined skepticism by the FCC and the DOJ forced Comcast to withdraw its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. If the SMARTER Act becomes law, internal agency reviews of challenges to a merger will be eliminated. Merger opponents will have to file challenges to mergers in federal court instead. Such a law would have offered AT&T a dramatically better chance that its merger with Time Warner, Inc., would have been approved months ago without a court proceeding.

Two of the Republican FCC commissioners issued statements applauding the proposed legislation.

“Among other improvements, the bill includes two key reforms to the FCC’s merger review process that I have longed championed: setting a non-aspirational, 180-day shot clock for agency review of license transfers and addressing the abusive practice of designating an application for hearing to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which effectively serves to kill a transaction,” wrote Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. “Applicants deserve a timely, complete, fact-based, and straightforward answer from the Commission – not one built on interminable delays or shady denials.”

“I applaud Senator Lee for working to ensure that good government is the law of the land,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. “With the SMARTER Act, Senator Lee would put the Federal Communications Commission on a shot clock and thus codify the agency’s commitment to open, transparent, and timely decision making.”

Although supporters of the measure claim it will eliminate disparate treatment of mergers and speed their review, critics contend the bill is a “solution in search of a problem.”

The American Antitrust Institute slammed the bill as lacking any foundation to prove its case. AAI conducted an exhaustive review of merger deals that came before the DOJ or FTC and found very few companies ever ran into opposition of their merger deals in the first place. From 2001-2014, businesses enjoyed a 97.5% chance their deals would be approved without challenge and a 96.7% chance their mergers or acquisitions would be approved without a second request.

Sen. Grassley

“The enforcement data suggest many things, but one of them is definitely not what the SMARTER Act purports to cure: an ‘unfairness’ caused by differences in standards and procedures at the FTC and DOJ,” wrote Diana Moss, president of AAI. “On the contrary, the SMARTER Act would create uncertainty and new litigation to solve a problem that, empirically, does not exist.”

Critics of the measure suspect the Republicans have a larger agenda in mind – curtailing government and regulatory oversight of public interest antitrust enforcement. AAI summarized their concerns:

First, the FTC’s use of administrative powers should be carefully safeguarded, because it has contributed critically to the effective shaping of U.S. merger policy without detracting from the speed or effectiveness of merger review.

Second, any difference in the preliminary injunction standard is more theoretical than real, and if a uniform standard is to be adopted, it should be the FTC’s standard, which allows the agency to obtain a preliminary injunction “[u]pon a proper showing that, weighing the equities and considering the Commission’s likelihood of ultimate success, such action would be in the public interest.”

Third, any change in the law may have harmful unintended consequences, including unnecessarily burdening the federal judiciary with new litigation over the meaning and value of the body of legal precedent involving merger cases brought by the FTC in federal court under the existing standard.

SMARTER Act by Senator Mike Lee on Scribd

The FCC Four: The Top Special Interests Lobbying the FCC

March was a big month for lobbyists visiting the Federal Communications Commission, which opened the doors to wireless special interest groups for “ex parte” meetings with agency staffers that, in turn, brief the three Republicans and two Democrats that serve as FCC commissioners.

Last month’s ex parte filings reveal strong evidence of a coordinated, well-financed campaign by America’s wireless operators and cable companies to get the FCC to ease off regulations governing forthcoming 5G networks, particularly with respect to where tens of thousands of “small cell” antennas will be installed to deliver the service.

Four industry trade groups and companies are part of the concerted campaign to scale back third party control over where 5G infrastructure will end up. Some want to strip local governments of their power to oversee where 5G infrastructure will be placed, while others seek the elimination of laws and regulations that give everyone from historical societies to Native American tribes a say where next generation wireless infrastructure will go. The one point all four interests agree on — favoring pro-industry policies that give wireless companies the power to flood local communities with wireless infrastructure applications that come with automatic approval unless denied for “good cause” within a short window of time, regardless of how overwhelmed local governments are by the blizzard of paperwork.

Here are the big players:

The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA)

The CCA is primarily comprised of rural, independent, and smaller wireless companies. In short, a large percentage of wireless companies not named AT&T or Verizon Wireless are members of CCA. The CCA’s chief goal is to protect the interests of their members, who lack the finances and political pull of the top two wireless companies in the U.S. CCA lobbyists met ex parte with the FCC multiple times, submitting seven filings about their March meetings.

CCA’s top priority is to get rid of what they consider burdensome regulations about where members can place cell towers and antennas. They also want a big reduction in costly environmental, tribal, and historic reviews that are often required as part of a wireless buildout application. CCA lobbyists argue that multiple interests have their hands on CCA member applications, and fees can become “exorbitant” even before some basic reviews are completed. The CCA claims there have been standoffs between competing interests creating delays and confusion.

Costs are a relevant factor for most CCA members, which operate regional or local wireless networks often in rural areas. Getting a return on capital investment in rural wireless infrastructure can be challenging, and CCA claims unnecessary costs are curtailing additional rural expansion.

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association

The large cable industry lobbyist managed to submit eight ex parte filings with the FCC in March alone, making the NCTA one of the most prolific frequent visitors to the FCC’s headquarters in Washington.

The NCTA was there to discuss the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, which is of particular interest to cable companies like Charter Communications, which wants to get into the wireless business on its own terms. Cable lobbyists, under the pretext of trying to avoid harmful interference, want to secure a large percentage of the CBRS band for their licensed use, at the expense of unlicensed consumers and their wireless industry competitors.

The cable industry wants CBRS spectrum to be wide, spacious, and contiguous for its cable industry members, which should open the door to faster speeds. The lobbyists want to make life difficult for unlicensed use of the band, potentially requiring cumbersome use regulations or costly equipment to verify a lack of interference to licensed users. They also want their traffic protected from other licensed users’ interference.

CTIA – The Wireless Association

The wireless industry’s largest lobbying group made multiple visits to the FCC in March and filed 10 ex parte communications looking for a dramatic reduction in local zoning and placement laws for the next generation of small cells and 5G networks.

The CTIA has been arguing with tribal interests recently. Tribes want the right to review cell tower placement and the environmental impacts of new equipment and construction. The CTIA wants a sped-up process for reviewing cell tower and site applications with a strict 30-day time limit, preferably with automatic approval for any unconsidered applications after the clock runs out. Although not explicitly stated, there have been grumblings in the past that tribal interests are inserting themselves into the review process in hopes of collecting application and review fees as a new revenue source. Wireless companies frequently question whether tribal review is even appropriate for some applications.

Sprint has had frequent run-ins with tribal interests demanding several thousand dollars for each application’s review under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which is supposed to protect heritage and historical sites.

In Houston, Sprint deployed small cells around the NRG Stadium, but found itself paying fees to at least a dozen Indian Tribal Nations as part of the NHPA. The NHPA opens the door to a lot of Native Americans interests because of how the law is written. Any Tribal Nation can express an interest in a project, even when it is to be placed on public or private property that is not considered to be tribal land. In Houston, Sprint found itself paying $6,850 per small cell site, not including processing fees, which raised the cost to $7,535 per antenna location. Those fees only covered tribal reviews, not the cost of installation or equipment. Some tribes offered better deals than others. The Tonkawa Tribe has 611 remaining members, mostly in Oklahoma. But they sought and got $200 in review fees for the 23 small cell sites deployed around the stadium. The Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, not Texas, charged $1,500 for the 23 applications it reviewed.

Sprint complains it has paid millions in such fees over the last 13 years and no tribe to date has ever asked to meet with Sprint or suggest one of its towers or cell sites would intrude on historic or tribal property.

“Tribal Nations are continuing to demand higher fees and designate larger and larger areas of interest,” says Sprint. “At present, there are no constraints on the amount of fees a Tribal Nation may require or the geographic areas for which it can require payment for review. The tribal historic review process remains in place even in situations—such as utility rights-of-way—where the Commission has exempted state historic review.”

The CTIA wants major changes to the NHPA and other regulations regarding cell tower and antenna placement before the stampede of 5G construction begins.


Verizon has been extremely busy visiting with the FCC during the month of March, filing 10 ex parte communications, also complaining about the tribal reviews of wireless infrastructure.

Verizon argues it wants to expand wireless service, not effectively subsidize Native American tribes.

“The draft order’s provisions to streamline tribal reviews for larger wireless broadband facilities will likewise speed broadband deployment and eliminate costs, thus freeing up resources that can, in turn, be used to deploy more facilities,” Verizon argued in one filing.

Verizon has also been carefully protecting its most recent very high frequency spectrum buyouts. It wants the FCC to force existing satellite services to share the 29.1-29.25 GHz band for 5G wireless internet. Verizon has a huge 150 MHz swath of spectrum in this band, allowing for potentially extremely high-speed wireless service, even in somewhat marginal reception areas.

“Verizon assured the commission that even when sharing with other services, we would be able to make use of the 150 MHz of spectrum in this block to provide high-speed broadband service to American consumers,” said one filing.

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