88th Annual Meeting

Preserving Local Public Rights-of-Way and Regulatory Authority to Most Effectively Deploy 5G Broadband Access and Bridge the Digital Divide during the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • WHEREAS, mayors and other local government officials are committed to ensuring the digital infrastructure of tomorrow is safe, reliable, and accessible to all of the residents of their cities; and

    WHEREAS, mayors and other local government officials have long advocated for universal access to reliable, high-speed broadband service - both wireline and wireless - as crucial for education, employment, economic development, and the provision of a variety of services necessary for success and progress in the 21st Century; and

    WHEREAS, mayors and other local government officials believe that the timely deployment of 5G broadband networks will have significant implications for U.S. innovation, including in transportation, agriculture, healthcare, education, public safety, manufacturing, commerce, and the continued development of smart communities; and

    WHEREAS, mayors and other local government officials recognize the increased importance of universal broadband access for education, health and business during the COVID-19 pandemic; and

    WHEREAS, mayors and local government officials are facing dwindling revenue and increasing demand for municipal services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; and

    WHEREAS, municipalities must balance competing interests for the use of the public rights-of-way, taking into account considerations for public safety; public utility services such as water, sewer, and electricity; the traveling public; environmental concerns; economic development; and maintenance costs; and

    WHEREAS, municipal government oversight of 5G broadband deployment is critical to ensure it is safe, equitable, and fiscally prudent, and local government officials have the most direct understanding of the needs of their communities and understand how best to implement policies that affect their citizens; and

    WHEREAS, a number of localities have negotiated and entered into agreements with wireless providers to deploy 5G broadband service in their communities, including provisions to bridge the digital divide; and

    WHEREAS, some members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress, and state legislatures have wrongly characterized this balancing act among competing interests for the public rights-of-way and maintenance of local authority as a barrier to 5G deployment and, instead, have put the interests of national corporations ahead of the needs of communities by imposing on municipalities a one-size-fits-all policy which preempts existing state and local policies; and

    WHEREAS, this has led to FCC actions and proposals aimed at restricting local authority over the public rights-of-way, imposing shot clocks on the consideration of siting applications, and limiting the rents and fees municipalities can charge private companies for access to those rights-of-way and public infrastructure, without any assurances that broadband infrastructure will be deployed where it is most needed, thus potentially harming consumers and municipalities alike; and

    WHEREAS, in 2018, the FCC adopted declaratory rulings and orders in its Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment proceeding, which limit the ability of local governments to regulate public property and rights-of-way (e.g., attachments to street lights, utility poles, public buildings), obtain a fair market value for private commercial use of public property, and ensure equal service to the community, while also imposing "shot clocks" that render it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain community input, while setting unreasonable timetables for local governments to conduct inspections necessary to protect public safety and ensure aesthetic protections for small cell wireless installations; and

    WHEREAS, the FCC's 2018 rulings are subject to pending appeals by local governments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and

    WHEREAS, in 2019 the FCC adopted a Third Report and Order in its Implementation of Section 621(a)(1) of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 as Amended by the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 proceeding, which adopted a new reading of the federal Cable Act's "franchise fee" definition that would, among other things, cost local governments millions of dollars in reduced franchise and other right-of-way fees and threaten the future of cable franchise access channel and institutional network requirements; and

    WHEREAS, the FCC's 2019 order is subject to pending appeals by local governments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; and

    WHEREAS, on June 9, 2020, the FCC adopted a declaratory ruling and notice of proposed rulemaking construing Section 6409(a) of the 2012 Spectrum Act, actions that will place still more new obligations on local governments and further constrain their ability to review applications to enlarge or modify wireless facilities; and

    WHEREAS, mayors and local governments have had to incur, and are continuing to incur, extraordinary legal costs contesting these repeated FCC actions intruding on municipalities' ability to manage and receive fair compensation for private commercial use of public property and to exercise their longstanding authority to regulate land use; and

    WHEREAS, the FCC's continuing changes in the rules it imposes on local governments require constant revision of ordinances and procedures, diverting time and resources from essential work such as responding to the COVID-19 pandemic; and

    WHEREAS, the FCC's repeated and sweeping imposition of new regulations on local governments threatens cities' continued fiscal and staffing ability to provide essential public health and safety services during the COVID-19 pandemic; and

    WHEREAS, the FCC's sweeping actions prevent local governments from being good stewards of public property, safety, and welfare; and

    WHEREAS, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has introduced legislation (HR 530), the Accelerating Broadband Deployment by Empowering Local Communities Act of 2019, which has 59 cosponsors, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced similar legislation (S 2012), the Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act of 2019, which has 8 cosponsors; and

    WHEREAS, HR 530 and S 2012 would overturn the FCC's Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order in its Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment proceeding; and

    WHEREAS, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) has introduced legislation (S 3218), the Protecting Community Television Act, which has 17 cosponsors, and Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has introduced companion legislation (HR 5659), which has 35 cosponsors; and

    WHEREAS, S 3218 and HR 5659 would overturn the FCC's Third Report and Order in its Implementation of Section 621(a)(1) of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 as Amended by the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 proceeding; and

    WHEREAS, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (NJ), with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (OR) and other House leaders, is advancing various legislative proposals that seek to invest in the nation's infrastructure, including wireless and landline broadband systems that bring more affordable and faster broadband services to underserved people in local areas, both urban and rural,

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors respectfully requests President Trump, the U.S. Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and state governments to protect municipal authority to balance the needs of all parties, including small cell access to the public rights-of-way, while maintaining municipal authority to retain control over their local rights-of-way and to receive fair-market compensation for access to all public assets; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The U.S. Congress should recognize that universal access to affordable broadband cannot be achieved through deregulation and preemption of the local authority, but will require partnerships and robust and dedicated federal funding to accelerate universal broadband deployment; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The U.S. Congress should recognize that the FCC's preemptive actions threaten the continued ability of the nation's local governments to provide essential public safety and health services during the COVID-19 pandemic; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Congress should preserve the respect for municipal authority found in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 such that industry working collaboratively with local governments might achieve our shared goal of ensuring affordable broadband access for every American, facilitating universal service, and closing the digital divide; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on Congress to pass legislation such as H.R. 530, the Accelerating Broadband Development by Empowering Local Communities Act of 2019, S. 2012, the Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act of 2019, and S 3218 and HR 5659, the Protecting Community Television Act, which would undo the harmful recent actions of the FCC; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors thanks Representative Eshoo, Senator Feinstein, Senator Markey and all of the cosponsors of HR 530, S 2012, S 3218 and HR 5659, and urges Congress to enact these bills; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors opposes the FCC's June 9, 2020, Declaratory Ruling in Docket No. 19-250, and urges the FCC not to adopt the proposals set forth in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in Docket No. 19-250 adopted at the FCC's June 9, 2020, open meeting agenda; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors should oppose any new regulation or legislation that would limit, in any way, local government oversight and authority regarding the deployment of broadband in communities and the fees that local governments may impose on private commercial businesses installing permanent facilities on local public property.
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