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Wireless industry groups this week hailed introduction of bipartisan legislation they said would enable faster deployments of small cellular infrastructure.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, on Thursday introduced the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii and ranking member of its communications subcommittee.

Text of the legislation was not immediately available on the congressional database, but Politico reports that it would require state, local and tribal jurisdictions to make decisions on small cell applications within 60 to 90 days. If no determination is made, the application would be automatically approved.

The measure would also require fees charged by municipalities to reflect the actual costs to local governments, and would direct the Government Accountability Office to evaluate barriers to broadband deployment on tribal lands.

Although small cells are a tiny fraction of the size of conventional cell towers, they will need to be deployed in far greater numbers to enable 5G networks. Industry officials particularly complained about lengthy and costly review and approval processes at the state and local government level.

"Small cells are the technology of tomorrow, but unfortunately, there are lots of barriers that prevent them from being rolled-out on a broader scale," Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steven Berry said in a statement. "This bill helps reduce these barriers, in part by putting reasonable processes and timelines in place for small cell applications."

CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker added that the Thune-Schatz legislation would accelerate "deployment of next-generation wireless infrastructure while preserving local authority."

The Federal Communications Commission earlier this year curbed federal oversight of small cells, and commissioners are likely to move forward with an effort to ease state and local regulations in coming months.

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