Bill Aims to Streamline Approval for Critical 5G Infrastructure

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Senators reintroduced legislation to accelerate the deployment of small cells, which help power 5G networks.

Lawmakers hope to facilitate the rapid rollout of 5G networks by accelerating the build-out of new infrastructure through the Streamline Small Cell Deployment Act, introduced by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D. and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, this week.

The bill is meant “to streamline siting processes for small cell deployment.”

Unlike tall modern cell towers, small cells are lower-power cell sites of modern radio equipment and antennas that can be placed on existing structures like buildings or streetlights, transmitting data to and from wireless devices. The wireless association CTIA suggests small cell deployments will quickly “escalate from roughly 13,000 deployed in 2017 to over 800,000 cumulatively deployed by 2026.”

The new legislation aims to update the Communications Act to promote quicker small cell deployment. The act sets small cell placement and approval guidelines and new timelines for state and local governments to respond to installment requests for the wireless equipment. It also lays out requirements for fee processing around the technology.

If passed, the bill would require applications to be acted on within 60 days for requests to collocate equipment and 90 days for other requests, though there’s flexibility for municipalities with less than 50,000 residents.

“Developing and deploying the next generation of wireless technology will provide more Americans with access to the internet while giving us the chance to continue our global leadership and create millions of new jobs,” Schatz said in a statement. “This bill will advance the discussion on how to best update our national 5G infrastructure.”

Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr also commended the legislation, saying it would “cut costs and streamline the approval periods” for the new technology.

Sens. Thune and Schatz previously introduced this bill in the last session of Congress.