FCC Pushes For Faster Wireless Tower Reviews

The FCC ruled unanimously to give local governments 90 days to determine whether to co-locate wireless antennas -- sharing infrastructure on an existing tower site with other operators-- and 150 days to determine whether to implement wireless infrastructure on new sites.

If local governments exceed the given timeframe, they have 30 days to take the issue to court.

The new wireless application rule, effective Wednesday, received strong backing by wireless carriers.

The new legislation follows through with a promise made by FCC Chariman Julius Genachowski made last month at an industry conference, after cellular carriers complained that government bureaucracy has continually impeded efforts to expand coverage by indefinitely delaying the wireless tower application process. Among other things, wireless carriers have claimed that governments resisted making decisions to erect wireless towers due to the fact that towers have a significant impact on surrounding property values.

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The FCC also enacted a rule prohibiting state and local governments from denying a tower application based on the fact that wireless service already exists in a geography provided by another carrier. Local governments would also not be able to demand a new zoning variance for each individual cell site.

The new legislation could potentially open up doors for litigation from state and local governments challenging federal intervention to established property zoning laws.

Meanwhile, the new wireless application rules are being put into effect as the FCC hammers out details of a national high-speed wireless plan in an effort to enable widespread wireless adoption throughout the country.