Published in ARS Technicia

Pai tried to kill environmental and historic-preservation review of small cells.

Excerpt:

One of Ajit Pai’s attempts to eliminate regulation of 5G deployment has been overturned by federal judges.

The Federal Communications Commission last year approved an order that “exempted most small cell construction from two kinds of previously required review: historic-preservation review under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” federal judges said in their decision partially overturning the order.

The FCC claimed its deregulation of small cells was necessary to spur deployment of 5G wireless networks. But the commission was sued by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, the Blackfeet Tribe, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The FCC order was of particular interest to tribal groups because it affected construction on “sites of religious and cultural importance to federally recognized Indian Tribes,” the judges noted. “The Order also effectively reduced Tribes’ role in reviewing proposed construction of macrocell towers and other wireless facilities that remain subject to cultural and environmental review.”

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The FCC’s opponents argued that the elimination of historic-preservation and environmental review was arbitrary and capricious, that it violated both the NHPA and NEPA, and that the changes to tribes’ role in reviewing construction was arbitrary and capricious. A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its unanimous ruling today.

Judges wrote that Pai’s order “does not justify the Commission’s determination that it was not in the public interest to require review of small cell deployments. In particular, the Commission failed to justify its confidence that small cell deployments pose little to no cognizable religious, cultural, or environmental risk, particularly given the vast number of proposed deployments and the reality that the Order will principally affect small cells that require new construction.”

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The FCC also failed to “adequately address possible harms of deregulation and benefits of environmental and historic-preservation review,” which means the commission’s “deregulation of small cells is thus arbitrary and capricious,” judges concluded…SNIP

Read the full article here

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