Connect (X)

Tag Archives: Michael O’Rielly

FCC Declaratory Ruling Bans Municipal Small Cell Moratoria

By J. Sharpe Smith, Senior Editor

O’Rielly [FCC Official Photo]

Tucked into the FCC’s effort to speed process and reduce the cost of attaching new network facilities to utility poles (one-touch make ready) was a declaratory ruling barring state and local governments from implementing moratoria on telecommunications services and facilities deployment.

The FCC’s press release on the item, which was approved at the August FCC open meeting, said moratoria are not allowed by the Communications Act because under Section 253(a), they “prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly was very emphatic in his opposition to moratoria, saying there is a long history of congressional opposition to moratoria on tower and antennas. O’Rielly said that moratoria are merely “mindless delay.”

“Let me make this clear for those local officials who may not have been listening in the past: NO MORATORIUMS; NO MORATORIUMS; ABSOLUTELY NO MORATORIUMS,” O’Rielly said in all capital letters in his written statement. “It is beyond me that we are still having to deal with this outrageous practice after so many years, especially given how important broadband can be to the very citizens residing in these areas.”

Rosenworcel [FCC Official Photo]

The lone Democrat on the Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel took issue with the declaratory ruling, saying that it lacked “the legal analysis.” She questioned the wisdom of ignoring the ability of local officials to set their own rules, such as the moratorium that is currently in place on laying fiber in coastal South Carolina during hurricane season.

“Going forward, three unelected officials sitting here today preempt these local policies because they believe Washington knows better,” Rosenworcel said. “We need to find a modern way to balance the needs for national deployment policies with local realities so that across the board government authorities support what we need everywhere—digital age infrastructure.”

O’Rielly said he realized the declaratory ruling was controversial and would probably be tested in court, but he welcomed the challenge to the FCC’s authority in this area. “Every ounce of Congressional authority provided to the Commission must be used as a counterforce against moratoriums,” he said.

Also during his statement, O’Rielly seemed to take a shot at former BDAC member San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who created a $24 million digital inclusion fund as part of public/private relationships with carriers that want to deploy small cells.

“And, the record is replete with examples of such out-of-bound practices, such as digital inclusion funds, that unnecessarily create political slush funds and raise the cost of service for consumers,” O’Rielly said.

Moratoria Previously in FCC Cross Hairs

FCC’s dislike of moratoria is not new. Back in 2014, at the Wireless Infrastructure Show, then-Commssioner Ajit Pai outlined his plan for streamlining the regulatory treatment of DAS and small cells, curbing local moratoria and modifying the shot-clock rules.

Pai proposed to clarify that local moratoria on the approval of new wireless infrastructure violate section 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act, which states that applications should be processed within a reasonable period of time.

“And now some cities are trying to evade those limits by adopting moratoriums on the approval of new wireless infrastructure,” he said.

Actually, it wasn’t the first time O’Rielly has blasted the use of moratoria to impede the rollout of small cells. He pointed to moratoria by Florida municipalities during a meeting of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), last November, in Washington, DC.

“The barriers being imposed are not caused by a failure to collaborate, but a failure to heed to current law and a resistance to allow citizens access to modern communications unless certain localities impose their will or extract bounties from providers,” O’Rielly said.

O’Rielly said problem of local governments setting up regulatory environments that are hostile to small cells is getting worse, “despite the existence of [BDAC].”

J. Sharpe Smith
Senior Editor/eDigest
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 29 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with  Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. 

Wireless Infrastructure Deployment on the Horizon

By Michael O’Rielly

Wireless infrastructure deployment, 9-1-1 fee diversion and a unified wireless emergency number are some of the matters on the horizon for an FCC commissioner.


FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly

It is an exciting and challenging time to be part of the wireless industry. There is an unprecedented consumer demand for wireless products and services, especially data. Consider the FCC’s latest Mobile Competition Report that highlights industry developments: There are almost 400 million connections, a healthy 5 percent increase from 2015, and data use has soared to 13.7 trillion megabytes a 42 percent increase from the prior year and a whopping 238 percent increase from just two years ago. On an individual basis, monthly consumer data use is up 39 percent since 2015, and over 50 percent of the American public has gone completely wireless.

With all this good news comes the realization that the wireless industry is under enormous competitive pressures. The same FCC data shows consumer prices, by one measurement, have fallen by 7 percent in one year’s time, and the cost of a megabyte, according to another source, has dropped from $1.37 to less than hałf a cent over the last decade. To put that in perspective, annual inflation has increased in the last five years by 4.5 percent, while wireless inflation has dropped by 8 percent. At the same time, network investment and overall speeds have increased substantially. By all accounts, wireless industry skeptics have been forced to acknowledge these positive developments for consumers, even if they loathe to utter the words “effectively competitive.” But, I dare you to find another communications industry segment — or commercial segment for that matter — that has produced so many consumer benefits while experiencing price reductions and fierce competition over the last many years.

I’m sure that those who love to regulate will try to make the weak case that the status of the wireless industry occurred because of — and not despite — the FCC’s regulations, particularly our net neutrality burdens. Beyond being desperate to validate their myopic decision, this argument completely ignores the counterfactual, or what would have occurred absent such burdens. The reality is that had the FCC rejected the liberal mantra of net neutrality, the entire wireless picture could have been even better.

Infrastructure Deployment

The FCC is well aware that industry is facing numerous challenges to install the hundreds of thousands of new wireless towers and antennas that are going to be needed to meet the insatiable demand for mobile services and new wireless technologies, such as 5G. To effectuate this, these towers and antennas must be installed throughout American communities, which to date has generated improper and unacceptable behavior by some state, local or tribal governments.

In particular, the FCC’s extensive record demonstrates that industry is experiencing excessive delays and moratoria when filing siting applications for access to locality rights of way. In fact, the record is replete with reports of long pre-application processes before an application can be filed or is deemed complete and of applications going through two years or more of review before a decision is actually made. For instance, one company reports that, in Florida alone, 26 jurisdictions have installed moratoria. Although most of these moratoria last for more than 180 days, in the case of at least two localities the moratoria extended more than two years. Permitting applications are being rejected for indefensible reasons, such as aesthetics, radio-frequency concerns or because localities don’t agree with the proposed type or placement of equipment.

Finally, providers are being forced to pay astronomical fees for approvals, which is unsustainable when thousands of small cells, generally the size of bread boxes, will need to be deployed. Providers report that they are paying not only large one-time application fees, but also franchise, use, contractor and even annual fees. For instance, we have seen some localities charge as much as $5,000 or $10,000 per site to review antenna structure applications and agreements. Some localities charge for the consultants reviewing siting applications, which can be $8,500 per pole, with additional inspection fees after installation. Some also charge recurring yearly fees of $6,000 per pole, while others take a percentage of gross revenues.

Preemption Authority

These are not acceptable responses to new small cell technologies that need to be deployed for the United States to maintain its position as the leader in wireless communications. Sadly, the real loser in all of this is the consumer, who must wait longer for access to new technologies, such as the internet of things. The FCC has three open proceedings about facilitating infrastructure installations, and the chairman has also instituted the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee to examine and resolve these types of issues. If this situation is not resolved quickly and satisfactorily, the FCC must be willing to use its preemption authority against those governmental entities.

9-1-1 Fee Diversion

The enormous successes of the wireless industry, not just over the last couple of years but the last many decades, has been greeted with attempts by creative state, local and tribal governments to target this success to fill their own coffers. Nowhere is this more apparent than the diversion of 9-1-1 fees by state governments. In my opinion, it is unconscionable that some states divert fees collected for legitimate and needed 9-1-1 communications capabilities to unrelated purposes, threatening the public’s safety for short-term budgetary relief. In fact, I think we should call this practice what it really is: stealing. State governments are stealing their citizens’ hard-earned incomes under the premise that they’re being used for public safety officials.

I certainly understand why some see this as a vexing problem to solve because it intertwines tax policy, jurisdictional lines, federalism, public safety, and consumers. However, it is precisely these types of issues that we expect our policymakers in government to address. Accordingly, not too long ago, I put forward three non-mutually exclusive ideas for the FCC to increase the pressure and force states to end this practice: 1) The FCC retains the right to bar diverting states from imposing 9-1-1 fees on interstate services, meaning a good percentage of wireless services, landline voice services and all VoIP services, at least in my opinion, would be off limits for such state coffers; 2) as it has done in other areas, the FCC can prevent communications providers from including misrepresentations or inaccurate information in requisite consumer bills, thus we could effectively prevent providers from collecting such funds or require them to remit the funds to diverting states; and 3) the FCC can and should exclude any person representing a diverting state from participating on an FCC advisory committee.

In addition to FCC options, Congress has full ability to correct diverting states’ practices either by directly applying existing law or by exerting necessary leverage via its extensive grants and funding regimes.

Unified Emergency Number

If you travel the Northeast corridor via car, you will see signs for multiple wireless numbers to dial for numerous critical situations, including aggressive driving and DUIs. Pound 77 in Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey; Star 47 in North Carolina; Star 77 in Massachusetts; and Star 11 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There’s also Star 847 in Tennessee, Pound 4357 in Wyoming, Star 55 in Oklahoma and Star 482 for parts of Kansas, just to give some examples. My point is that, depending on where a person physically is at the moment, the mobile telephone number to report critical situations may be different.

This raises a host of questions. Why do we force the American public to remember these different numbers or read a roadside sign while driving along the highway? Are these numbers being used effectively to shift some vital mobile emergency traffic away from the 9-1-1 calling centers? Would a unified number be beneficial to wireless consumers, public safety officials and even wireless providers? If so, what prevents the development and deployment of a unified number?

To some degree, these are rhetorical questions in my opinion, or I wouldn’t be raising this matter. We used to have a similar issue with regard to the larger public safety emergency numbers until Congress and the emergency communications community agreed to set 9-1-1 as the official emergency number. Why wouldn’t the same arguments that led to that decision apply here? The simple answer is that they should. We should have a unified wireless number for non-9-1-1 calls.

Edited for length and style, this article condenses remarks made by FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly at the New Jersey Wireless Association Deployment Summit on Oct. 18. You can download the transcript at www.fcc.gov/document/comm-orielly-remarks-new-jersey-wireless-association.

Don Bishop is Executive Editor and Associate Publisher. Bishop joined AGL Media Group in 2004. He helped to launch and was the founding editor of AGL Magazine, the AGL Bulletin email newsletter (now AGL eDigest) and DAS and Small Cells magazine (now AGL Small Cell Magazine). He served as host for AGL Conferences from 2010 to 2012, appearing at 12 conferences. Bishop writes and otherwise obtains editorial content published in AGL Magazine, AGL eDigest and the AGL Media Group website. Bishop also photographs and films conferences and conventions. Many of his photographs have appeared on the cover, in articles and in the “AGL Tower of the Month” center spread photo feature in AGL Magazine. During his time with Wiesner Publishing, Primedia Business Information and AGL Media Group, he helped to launch several magazines and edited or managed editorial departments for a dozen magazines and their associated websites, newsletters and live event coverage. He is a former property manager, radio station owner and CEO of a broadcast engineering consulting firm. He was elected a Fellow of the Radio Club of America in 1988, received its Presidents Award in 1993, and served on its board of directors for nine years. Don Bishop may be contacted at: [email protected]


FCC Considers Additional Spectrum for Unlicensed Use at 5.9 GHz

By J. Sharpe Smith

After three years of discussion, it looks like the FCC is seriously thinking about expanding spectrum that could be used for Wi-Fi into the 5.850-5.925 GHz (U-NII-4) band, which is allocated for Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) operations.

FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai, Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel enthusiastically embraced the move. Comm. Pai said he has been calling for opening up the 5 GHz band for more Wi-Fi usage since 2012. He also noted the support on Capitol Hill from Sens John Thune, Bill Nelson, Cory Booker, Claire McCaskill, Gary Peters, and Marco Rubio, as well Reps Bob Latta and Anna Eshoo.


In 1999 the FCC allocated 75 MHz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for DSRC use by Intelligent Transportations Systems (ITS) vehicle safety and mobility applications, which is adjacent to unlicensed wireless technology allocations made in 1997 and 2003. The use of the band for vehicle safety, however, has been supplanted by other technologies in other bands.

“DSRC is intended to enable wireless communications to promote safety for both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure purposes,” wrote Comm. Ajit Pai. “But at the time of the allocation, we did not have the commercial applications or new radar technologies that can play a key role in improving highway safety and thus saving lives.”
In a joint statement, FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel said that the DSRC spectrum is the best option for expanding capacity for unlicensed Wi-Fi users.

“Combining the airwaves in this band with those already available for unlicensed use nearby could mean increased capacity, reduced congestion, and higher speeds,” the Commissioners wrote.

An important component of the proceeding will be proving that Wi-Fi use of the spectrum will not cause interference to incumbent licensees, DSRC systems in particular. It establishes procedures for the submission of prototypes for testing and a test plan that will be led by the Commission, in consultation with the Department of Transportation and National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Qualcomm and Cisco are expected to showcase 5.9 GHz spectrum sharing technologies.

“Technological advances have reduced the potential for interference and enabled spectrum sharing, allowing us to explore unlicensed opportunities in this band without causing harmful interference to DSRC safety-of-life functions,” according to O’Rielly and Rosenworcel.

The Public Notice established a July 30, 2016 deadline for the submission of testing equipment and testing completed by January 15, 2017.

Auction Timing Should Consider Carrier Capitalization — O’Rielly

By Don Bishop



April 29, 2015 – FCC Comm. Michael O’Rielly said that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has revealed his desire to conduct the incentive auction in the first quarter of 2016. O’Rielly said he is comfortable with the timing if there are no legitimate reasons for delay in a keynote speech at the Wireless Infrastructure Show in Hollywood, Florida, yesterday. Carrier capitalization should be factored into the timing decision, he added.

“Is there a need for wireless carriers to recapitalize to raise the $41 billion or $44 billion to provide that funding to the government, if needed, and then to have money to bid in an auction?” he asked. O’Rielly said he raised the question of the need for carrier recapitalization at the NAB Show two weeks ago in a an AWS survey, which resulted in an increase of what the broadcasters “thought their stations were worth.”

The commissioner said he worries that broadcasters could be “pricing themselves out of the market and the wireless carriers may have a gulf where they don’t have enough capitalization, and the gulf would mean the FCC has a failed auction. It’s most important that we get that timing right.”

Referring to a statement made on a CNBC TV program, O’Rielly said there is an idea that next-generation devices might bypass cell towers and become a part of a mesh-style cellular network. Considering that he was speaking to an audience of tower owners, his choice of the example was attention-getting.

“This could result in a diminished reliance on cell towers, and may even make them a thing of the past,” he said to tower developers and investors who have a lot riding on a future that continues to see wireless carriers renting space for antennas on their towers.

The Commissioner, however, made plenty of references to the FCC’s commitment to making spectrum available for wireless and to the critical nature of wireless infrastructure.

“Without infrastructure, the latest innovations and offerings will not be available to meet the demands of American consumers. Without infrastructure, the U.S. does not maintain its position as the leader in wireless and Internet technologies. Without infrastructure, the economic growth of the wireless sector and its corresponding benefits to the U.S. economy comes to a halt,” he said.

The commissioner showed an awareness of some of the nuances of promoting new tower development, including working with Native Nations to increase the efficiency of historic preservation application and review procedures.

“I hear that improvements can be made to provide Native Nations the information they need to protect their historic sites while ensuring that the process allows for the prompt construction of facilities. Creating best practices or guidelines, including reasonable timeframes and fees, could help provide greater certainty and finality to this process. Both industry and Native Nations should have shared expectations as to how this process works,” he said.