5G Network Rollout Continues in Idaho’s Palouse Area

The Washington-Idaho border-straddling region is likely to see fifth-generation wireless technology deployed soon, as federal regulators have limited the blocks local government can place on its deployment.

by Garrett Cabeza, Moscow-Pullman Daily News / February 27, 2020
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(TNS) — Significant deployment of 5G networks — fifth generation wireless technology for cellular networks — started last year across the country and telecommunication companies will soon launch the technology in the Palouse region.

The 5G expansion will have implications at every level of government, and full deployment could happen in the next five years, University of Idaho law professor Richard Seamon said Wednesday.

Seamon discussed the “Legal Aspects of the 5G Rollout” Wednesday at the League of Women Voters of Moscow forum at the 1912 Center in Moscow, Idaho.

The new technology can handle more traffic than today’s cellular network and is faster than 4G, but the introduction of the technology raises concerns about aesthetics and local control.

Seamon said several technologies associated with 5G are relevant from a legal standpoint, but “small cells” will raise the most legal implications for local governments.

Small cells serve the same basic purpose as traditional cell towers as they connect wireless devices to nearby cellular networks. Small cells consist of antennas and transmission equipment. They need a power source connection to fiber optic cables, which typically run through public rights of way or other public spaces.

Unlike cell towers, which can be spaced farther apart, small cells need to be closer together. The more obstacles present, such as trees and buildings, the more small cells will be required. The placement of small cells are regulated by local governments but limited by the FCC.

Local governments play the leading role in controlling the deployment of small cells, Seamon said, though Idaho is not one of the states with laws to control the deployment of small cells.

The FCC regulates the provision of wireless Internet services, including 5G networks. It is trying to get rid of state and local regulations that hinder the implementation, Seamon said.

The FCC in 2018 placed three new limits on local governments with regard to applications to construct or attach small cells in municipalities.

First, the FCC limited the fees local governments can charge for processing and applications to install small cells. Seamon said the federal agency made it clear that municipalities cannot make money off the fees.

Second, the FCC decision limits the amount of time local governments have to act on an application to deploy small cells.

Third, the decision limits the extent local governments can rely on aesthetic concerns to deny an application.

In 2018, the FCC also determined small cell deployments are exempt from federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Many people also are concerned about the potential health problems electromagnetic waves could create as a result of 5G deployment.

An FCC report released in December stated the federal agency is not going to change any of its existing standards regulating exposure to radio frequency energy.

©2020 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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