The FCC’s Small Cell Order Threatens Local Control

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Contact: Jessica Del Fiacco, 612-540-5997


The FCC’s Small Cell Order Threatens Local Control

Next Century Cities condemns the Order for limitations placed on local governments


Washington D.C. – On September 26, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an Order as a part of its ongoing proceeding to streamline the rollout of infrastructure for broadband services, including small cells for 5G wireless service. Next Century Cities is greatly concerned that local governments will be harmed by the Order, which strengthens the hand of carriers in negotiations over small cell deployment.

The Order limits the ability of local governments to negotiate small cell deployments that are in the public interest and diminishes local decision making. The Order uses a false claim — that big cities’ application and attachment fees burden wireless companies to the point that they cannot afford to build out in smaller communities — to recommend annual fees far below the market rates. These low fees would create a de facto public subsidization of industry investment. Despite this, the Order neglects to include any actual obligation for wireless companies to use the savings in big cities to invest in rollouts in underserved low-income urban neighborhoods or smaller and rural communities. The FCC is just giving private wireless companies all of the benefits of a utility without any traditional public interest obligations.

“Communities across the country are working hard to encourage 5G investment,” says Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “Local leaders want this technology that will improve quality of life for their constituents. However, this Order puts a foot on the scale for industry, and limits community capacity to serve the public interest. Mutually beneficial agreements will only happen when local governments can come to the table without their hands tied behind their backs.”

Next Century Cities has collaborated with Mark Del Bianco, Principal at the Law Office of Mark C. Del Bianco, to create a guide to the Order, available here. (Note: This link has since been updated to reflect our newest guide to the Order as passed.) The guide breaks down the Order and our understanding of its implications and anticipated effects on local control. It also suggests action steps local governments can take to retain some local control.


Next Century Cities is a non-profit membership organization of over 180 communities, founded to support communities and their elected leaders, including mayors and other officials, as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable internet access. Next Century Cities celebrates broadband successes in communities, demonstrates their value, and helps other cities to realize the full power of truly high-speed, affordable, and accessible broadband. For more information, visit


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