The National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Government Finance Officers Association, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Towns and Townships, the National Association of Regional Councils, and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors have asked the FCC to extend the deadlines for filing reply comments in its proceedings on accelerating wireline and wireless broadband deployment by removing barriers to infrastructure investment (Wireline Competition docket 17-84 and Wireless Telecommunications docket 17-79, respectively).
The current reply deadlines in both dockets are July 17. They requested extensions until Aug. 17.
“In addition to the potential for confusion with the Net Neutrality comments due that same day,” that is, July 17, the local government groups offered five other reasons to grant the extension: (1) “[t]he number of and complexity of comments filed to date in both proceedings;” (2) “[t]he number of existing rules that are proposed for revision;” (3) “[t]he number of communities that are maligned directly or by inference and the need to alert them to provide the Commission with a complete factual record of any alleged bad acts;” (4) “[i]ntervening state laws that have been adopted on small wireless facilities siting in the public rights-of-way and requests to preempt these laws; and” (5) “[t]he number of conflicts that fall within the current reply comment period.”
They noted that “[a]s of July 7, 2017, no less than 199 comments have been filed in the Wireline proceeding (WC 17-84) and 350 comments have been filed in the Wireless proceeding (WT 17-79). With limited resources, it has been impossible for local government commenters to read all the filings, let alone develop cogent responses.”
“As we pointed out in prior filings, an adverse ruling by the Commission on many of the issues raised in these proceedings could potentially cost local governments billions of dollars annually for the private use of the public rights-of-way. We believe that the number of local government parties filing comments reflects the seriousness with which they view these proceedings and an extension of time to file reply comments will permit local governments nationwide to address the many financial and budgetary implications that any Commission rulings could have on communities and their residents,” they added.
Regarding the issue of “maligned communities,” the local government groups said that “specifically named local governments must have the time to review the allegations against them and provide the Commission with the full story on why any delays in the siting process may have occurred, including industry failures, as well as explaining how current siting and application practices promote deployment. An extension of time to file reply comments will allow maligned local governments to address the claims made against them. Moreover, the Commission must strike from the record any claims that do not cite the specific government whose conduct is being impugned. The Commission has made it clear that it wants to make data driven decisions — a goal that cannot be met through the use of allegations in the abstract. Permitting such conduct undercuts the credibility of any decisions the Commission may reach.”
As for state laws, they said, “Recently, no less than 15 states have reviewed small wireless facility siting legislation, with a number of states enacting such laws. Many localities from those states need to know that some industry commenters are seeking to preempt these new bills, despite a number of the state laws being developed by consensus between various state associations of local governments and the industry.”
They also noted that the period between the comment and reply comment deadlines have included the annual meeting of the USCM and meetings of NLC committees, as well as the mid-week Independence Day holiday, “resulting in many city professionals exercising vacation days to take a four day weekend.” —Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org