It is no secret that as DAS networks have evolved, local zoning and permitting have struggled to keep up with the pace of change. In-building wireless systems, as well, are moving from being seen as amenities to utility status but have little regulatory history.
As the FCC explores the deployment of more low-power wireless systems, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has brought the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) to join in the educational process looking at the gamut of indoor and outdoor deployments.
A joint workshop, Feb. 1, will be held by the FCC and NATOA to discuss DAS and small cell deployments in both outdoor and indoor public spaces, including hospitals, campuses, buildings, businesses and historical districts and transit systems.
Speakers will include Rick Kaplan, chief, FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Joanne Hovis, president, NATOA. Explaining the technology will be representatives of Corning Mobile Access, NextG, Crown Castle USA, American Tower, SOLiD Technologies, ExteNet Systems and Cellular Specialties.
Robert Delsman, NextG Networks, who will speak at the workshop, will talk about gaining clarity in DAS and small cell regulation, noting that under the Telecom Act of 1996, DAS should be treated as telecom facilities through which carriers provide telecommunications services, and municipalities should use the same permit process for DAS/small cells that they use for wireline carriers.
“Conditional-use permits and other discretionary zoning and permitting requirements are not appropriate for public way installations,” Delsman said. “It is not a legitimate exercise of municipal time, place, manner or controls under the Telecommunications Act to impose special additional burdensome rules and processes on DAS providers in the public way simply because their networks incorporate antennae. Such regulations and requirements are a disguised attempt to regulate based on RF emissions, which is not permissible.”
In the session “DAS and Small Cell: Broadband Uses in the Public Space,” Seth Buechley, president, Solid Technologies, will call for a national policy framework to address the challenges of public safety radio on DAS. In an email to DAS Bulletin, he noted that unfunded mandates are a key issue for in-building public safety radio coverage. Additionally, the lack of a common certification process makes interoperability a problem between wireless services, public safety and two-way radio.
“Building owners lack a cohesive decision-making body; therefore, scalable policy solutions to finally solve the universal indoor public safety radio coverage problem should be driven by a shared DAS coalition, which includes national wireless service providers, national public safety organizations, national wireless infrastructure trade associations, and national building owner trade associations,” Buechley said. “National and local jurisdictions should convert from an ‘unfunded mandate’ to a ‘when-funded mandate.'”
Jonathan Kramer, municipal wireless consultant, said that local governments and the public need to be educated about the evolution of delivery technologies leading to the overlay of DAS and small cell sites, including the shift from RF coverage emphasis to providing high-speed data capacity, the potential doubling of the number of cell sites within the next 10 years, and the need for new sites to be extremely close to the end users.
“Taken as a whole, the ever-broadening landscape of wireless services and data delivery speeds will put tremendous pressure on local governments to relax wireless ordinance siting requirements at the very moment increasingly vocal sectors of the public are demanding even tighter regulation of these same facilities based on aesthetic and health considerations,” Kramer said.