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Carr Announces 5G Upgrade Order on FCC’S June Agenda

FCC Press Release| May 19, 2020

Order Clarifies Rules for Upgrading Equipment on Existing Wireless Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC, May 19, 2020—FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr announced that the FCC will vote on his 5G Upgrade Order, the latest of Carr’s initiatives to accelerate America’s wireless infrastructure builds.

“America’s tower crews and telecom techs are building the strongest 5G network in the world.  Their efforts already are creating new jobs and opportunities in towns across the country.  By streamlining tower upgrades, we will encourage even more investment in our communities and new service to connect families,” said Carr.  “Rural America will benefit from new competition for their broadband dollars.  First responders will benefit from dedicated networks and expanded capacity.  And all Americans will benefit from world-leading wireless service as existing towers are upgraded to 5G.”

Carr’s order continues the multi-year effort by Congress and the FCC to eliminate needless delays of tower upgrades.  In 2012, Congress required local governments to approve modifications to wireless infrastructure that do not substantially change the size of the towers or base stations.  These modifications—taking off old equipment and putting on new equipment—were understood to be crucial to upgrading wireless capacity and improving service.  In 2014, the FCC wrote rules to implement the law.  That action helped the U.S. lead the world in wireless as 4G services rolled out.  Since that time, some of the rules have proved ambiguous, creating disagreements between parties trying to follow them.

The 5G Upgrade Order clarifies the FCC’s 2014 rules by:

  • Explaining when the 60-day shot clock for local approval begins
  • Specifying what new equipment qualifies for streamlined approval
  • Clarifying how local governments’ concealment and aesthetic conditions of approval apply
  • Asking for public comment on what activity related to a modification can occur outside of a wireless site

Local leaders and wireless builders haled the announcement of Carr’s order.

“Here in Cheyenne, we’ve invested in towers.  We’ve invested in those significant infrastructure projects.  That’s because broadband access is critical.  It’s critical to our police, fire, those 911 calls.  It’s critical to accessing telehealth, including mental health counseling.  It’s critical to not only filing for unemployment, but finding reemployment.  It’s critical to providing education at all grade levels,” said Marian Orr, Mayor of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  “What an elegant solution to providing increased local access to services: using existing towers and being able to bolster connectivity.  I support the work being done by Commissioner Carr and others in Washington to bring long overdue guidance for telecom providers when it comes to rolling out 5G technology in rural America.”

“Upgrading sites to 5G is something our tower crews do every day, and this regulatory relief will allow our teams to install next-gen connections in even more communities,” added Craig Snyder of Vikor Teleconstruction, a wireless infrastructure construction business.

“Infrastructure builders are seeing that, in some cases, Congress’s goal of making it easier to collocate equipment on existing wireless sites is being stymied in practice,” said Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein.  “We thank Commissioner Carr for his steady leadership and the support of the Commission for paving the way for next-generation wireless services, giving America another leg up in the race to 5G.”

“Commissioner Carr’s proposal will advance the long-standing bipartisan consensus to give wireless providers greater flexibility to rapidly upgrade existing facilities with next-generation infrastructure critical to American leadership in the emerging 5G economy,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, President and CEO of CTIA. The full Commission will vote on the 5G Upgrade Order, a combination of a declaratory ruling and a notice of proposed rulemaking, at its next open meeting, on June 9

Office of Commissioner Brendan Carr: (202) 418-2200

Media Contact:

Will Adams, (202) 418-2007

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