Cities are planning to sue the Federal Communications Commission over its decision to preempt local rules on deployment of 5G wireless equipment.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes yesterday said their city intends to appeal the FCC order in federal court. Seattle will be coordinating with other cities on a lawsuit, they said.
"In coordination with the overwhelming majority of local jurisdictions that oppose this unprecedented federal intrusion by the FCC, we will be appealing this order, challenging the FCC's authority and its misguided interpretations of federal law," they said in a press release.
The FCC says its order will save carriers $2 billion, less than one percent of the estimated $275 billion it will take to deploy 5G across the country.
In Oregon, the Portland City Council voted Tuesday to approve a lawsuit against the FCC, The Oregonian reported, saying the move "added Portland to a growing list of cities, primarily on the West Coast, that are preparing to fight" the FCC order.
The FCC vote on September 26 limited the amount that local governments may charge carriers for placing 5G equipment such as small cells on poles, traffic lights, and other government property in public rights-of-way.
The FCC order suggests up-front application fees of $100 for each small cell and annual fees of up to $270 per small cell. Cities that charge more than that would likely face litigation from carriers and would have to prove that the fees are a reasonable approximation of all costs and "non-discriminatory." Portland typically charges $3,000 per year, The Oregonian report said.
Some cities charge different rates in different areas to encourage deployment. New York City, for example, charges as little as $148 per month in underserved areas and $5,100 in parts of Manhattan, a Bloomberg story said.
The FCC order also forces cities and towns to act on carrier applications within 60 or 90 days, and it limits the kinds of aesthetic requirements cities and towns can impose on carrier deployments.
"The scope of this overreach is significant," Durkan and Holmes said. "It impedes local authority to serve as trustees of public property and to fulfill cities' public health and safety responsibilities while establishing unworkable standards. This will increase costs and impose an unreasonable burden on local governments."
The Seattle officials said they "are particularly concerned about how the Order will compromise the safety, security, and reliability of critical electrical infrastructure, City Light's utility poles."
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai accused cities and towns of "extracting as much money as possible in fees from the private sector and forcing companies to navigate a maze of regulatory hurdles in order to deploy wireless infrastructure."
Pai argues that cutting fees in big cities will spur carriers to deploy more broadband in rural areas. But he offered no evidence that carriers' deployment decisions in rural areas are affected by permit fees in big cities, and the FCC order doesn't require carriers to build in areas where they wouldn't have done so anyway.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, questioned the FCC's authority to override local rules in this case. She said that litigation against the FCC "will only slow our 5G future."