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10/09/2017

States, Cities Feud Over Wireless Network Small Cells

Texas, Ohio, and 11 other states have passed laws in recent months that dictate how cities should regulate small cells—

The running battle between cities and states over wireless carriers’ plans to deploy critical infrastructure equipment for ultra-fast networks continues to rage as the Federal Communications Commission weighs whether to step in.

Texas, Ohio, and 11 other states have passed laws in recent months that dictate how cities should regulate small cells—communications equipment that companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are deploying to build the next-generation networks known as 5G. Cities that want to charge more or impose stricter rules on where to put the boxy communications nodes are fighting back with court challenges to the state laws.

The state actions have opened a new front in the cities’ fights with carriers over setting up more small cells around the country. Small cells will form the backbone of 5G, which is touted by carriers as the faster successor to today’s networks, and provide capacity in high-density cities. But although cities and states agree that high-speed broadband is important, the squabbles have created an uncertain regulatory climate that may slow deployment.

“When you’re talking about barriers to cell deployment, there’s market barriers, and there’s legal, policy barriers,” Tom Struble, technology policy manager at the think tank R Street Institute, told Bloomberg BNA.

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