FCC Votes To Give Corporate Handout To Telecom Companies on 5G, Widening Digital Divide

Today, the FCC voted on an Order to limit the fees state and local governments can charge wireless companies to attach infrastructure for 5G deployment on public property. 5G is the next generation of wireless broadband service. These price caps will save the industry $2 billion in deployment costs. The FCC’s Order does not impose any deployment requirements or public interest obligations on telecom companies in return for capping fees.

Statement of Michael Copps, FCC Commissioner and Common Cause Special Adviser

With today’s vote, the FCC continues its race to the bottom on 5G. By capping the fees state and local governments can charge, the FCC has decided to put the interests of a handful of telecom companies over local communities. State and local governments play a critical role in overseeing 5G deployment and that includes the ability to assess appropriate fees to attach infrastructure on public property.

The FCC argues the $2 billion in cost savings will go towards bringing 5G to rural areas. But basic economics will tell you that 5G won’t come to rural America where geographic barriers and low population densities means little profit for wireless companies. The FCC’s own data shows that millions of Americans particularly in rural areas still have “no G.” The FCC’s actions also hurt state and local government abilities to negotiate any public interest obligations like buildout requirements or anti-redlining provisions. This gives wireless companies even more of an ability to only deploy 5G to the richest parts of a city, leaving low-income areas unserved.

Communities want 5G and there are good examples of state and local governments working with wireless companies to ensure 5G deployment is fair and equitable. But the FCC ignores these examples and instead adopts a corporate welfare plan that only widens the digital divide.