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Despite being “Rickrolled” by net neutrality protesters at the start of its meeting Thursday, the FCC managed to get down to business, passing – among other things – measures to streamline small cell siting and reform business data services (BDS).

One of first items on the FCC’s agenda was approval of a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to begin an “examination of how state and local processes affect the speed and cost of infrastructure deployment, and asks for comment on improving state and local infrastructure reviews, such as zoning requests.” During this process, the FCC indicated it will look at whether to “deem granted” siting applications that state and local governments fail to act on quickly enough, and how to minimize costs and delays to infrastructure roll outs from historic preservation and environmental review processes.

The measure comes in the context of an increase in small cell deployments across the industry, which have been hindered by what carriers call “antiquated” rules made for siting large tower projects. But while she consented to move the item forward, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn cautioned that the FCC must be careful not to deal with the issue “in a vacuum.”

“Approving applications to site antennas and other infrastructure are difficult policy challenges for local governments. Many are overwhelmed by the increased volume of siding and permitting applications,” Clyburn commented. “They are on the front lines addressing the challenges of cost, complexity, and time faced by applicants, while answering and addressing the concerns and needs of individuals in their communities … A collaborative local process and open dialogue between public and private sectors will minimize conflict, introduce predictability, and create incentives for information sharing and transparency.”

Rolling back regulations on business data services

The Commission also pushed through in a 2-1 vote reforms to deregulate business data services. The new framework would allow “whenever possible, for competition instead of regulation to ensure that rates charged for business are just and reasonable.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai supported the measure, arguing regulation of BDS pricing “threatens competition and investment.” He was backed up by Commissioner Michael O’Rielly in approving the measure.

Clyburn, however, fiercely dissented, calling the order “arbitrary and capricious” and an “all-out assault on America's small businesses, schools, and local economies.”

“The order uses as justification to deregulate the existence of competitors that no longer compete in the market and the fact those former competitors have been purchased by the very incumbents they are supposedly competing against magically gets lost in this analysis,” Clyburn commented. “Most heartbreaking is that today's action ruthlessly targets areas that most desperately need help. Those places must now brace themselves for an unconscionable 60 percent price hike, which is what we saw the last time we deregulated this broadly … It is a sad day for all consumers who will soon wonder who to thank for their rate spikes. Sadly, the blame is squarely on us.”

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