May 19, 2020 - Technology

FCC to vote on "5G upgrade" plan

A photo of FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr at a congressional hearing
Commissioner Brendan Carr. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Federal Communications Commission will vote next month on a plan to get U.S. 5G networks built out faster by clarifying rules on updating existing wireless infrastructure.

The big picture: The plan builds on past action the agency has taken over the objections of cities. The FCC's GOP majority says rule changes, including preempting cities in some cases, will make it quicker, cheaper and easier for wireless carriers to build out their 5G networks.

Details: Commissioner Brendan Carr, who is leading the agency's work on wireless infrastructure, told Axios the latest proposal focuses on replacing or modifying existing wireless equipment with new gear that can carry 5G signals.

  • “This is going to take 3G and 4G sites and make it easier and faster to upgrade them to 5G," Carr said.

The plan, set for a June 9 vote, would clarify:

  • the starting point of a 60-day shot clock on whether to allow a wireless equipment installation;
  • what equipment can go on an existing structure; and
  • what rules cities can impose around concealing equipment or making it aesthetically pleasing.

Yes, but: Some cities have warned the commission against making such rule changes, which wireless industry groups have requested.

  • "The current public health crisis has proven that local governments are eminently capable of working in partnership with industry stakeholders to dedicate resources where they are needed most," a slew of Western cities including San Jose, Boulder and Tacoma told the agency last month.
  • "The commission should celebrate these success stories and not view this moment as an opportunity to further preempt local authority."

Go deeper: The battle over 5G deployment in America's cities

Go deeper