back to article You, FCC, tell us again why cities are only allowed to charge rich telcos $270 to attach 5G tech to utility poles?

The controversial decision by the FCC to impose a $270 limit on what cities are allowed to charge mobile operators for hosting a 5G cell on their utility poles finally came up for judicial review this week. The per-pole-per-year fee is only one part of a larger year-long battle between US states and the federal regulator over …

  1. tcmonkey

    "Well, we just reached inside our ass and pulled it out, your honor"

    Where's the application form for a new keyboard? Mine has tea in it now.

    1. tfewster Silver badge

      > The judge interrupted him: “So how did you get to $270?” We're still waiting for an answer.

      Because if it costs a city more than $270 per cell "to run through the process to approve and install" they're a bloated bureaucracy? Also bear in mind that:

      - It's an annual fee. If the city lose out initially, they'll make it up later.

      - Economies of scale. It's likely to be 100+ sites/applications, that can be processed en masse.

      - If the citizens want 5G, they're not going to be happy with the city pushing the costs up.

      Unusually, the FCC seems to be doing its job here, lowering the barriers to tech rollout.

      Of course I could be wrong. The FCC is notoriously business-friendly, maybe the flat-fee model stinks.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "Because if it costs a city more than $270 per cell "to run through the process to approve and install" they're a bloated bureaucracy? Also bear in mind that:"

        That's about 3-4 hours of work, once you include all the costs of hiring someone. If you aren't just saying 'yes', and are actually looking at the application, going to the place to see if it's feasible and appropriate, looking at the other sites to see if it's duplication, etc., it should take more than four hours.

      2. fwthinks

        Fixed fees have a place if you can then ensure that the extra revenue they save from large cities is used to subsidize other locations. However it seems from the article that this is an assumption by the FCC and not a formal requirement. Meaning businesses can completely ignore it if they want.

        Are there people out there that still think businesses will provide services just because they want to be good to society?

        1. Reg Reader 1

          There is a cost doing business and if a business is unwilling or unable to pay that cost it is either a bad business decision to proceed, a broken business model, or the business, itself, is unable to compete.

          People seem to forget that "for profit business" is a risk. Businesses can make huge profits, if they succeed. No "for profit business" should be given government subsides or have costs, to that business, fixed by the government or any its agencies.

      3. oiseau Silver badge

        Of course I could be wrong.

        Hmm ...

        Yes, you are.


      4. Reg Reader 1

        But how does setting a price fit into the vaunted Capitalist marketplace? Surely anyone can charge what the market will pay. Probably a lot more in a large center and at least cost recovery in less populated areas.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan

          vaunted Capitalist marketplace

          You mean the one owned by the big companies who give lip-service to the concept of competition but would far rather remain as the regional cartel monopolies that they are?

      5. JohnFen

        > If the citizens want 5G, they're not going to be happy with the city pushing the costs up.

        Correct, which means that the citizenry will force the city to levy smaller fees. If the citizens don't care (and, at least in my part of the country, most couldn't care less), then everything's good. I don't see the problem here.

        > Unusually, the FCC seems to be doing its job here, lowering the barriers to tech rollout.

        That isn't the FCC's job.

      6. Roland6 Silver badge

        >Unusually, the FCC seems to be doing its job here, lowering the barriers to tech rollout.

        Has the FCC also capped the ground rent land and building owners can charge for hosting 5G tech?

        I suspect the idea of even having a price cap only occurs to people when they are considering the use of public land and other assets and how they might be used in the pursuit of profit by for-profit businesses.

        Mind you I can see the Conservatives doing this here with the compulsory property purchase compensation - fastest way to lower the total cost of HS2 and other major infrastructure projects...

        1. John McCallum

          compusory purchase

          this I doubt nephew of mine had a cheap house in Lancashire £8000 the local council made CP order on it and only offered £8000 in the end after he was paid all the fees he was entitled to he got nearly £60000.So CP is not the cheap option some think it is.

      7. CrazyOldCatMan

        Unusually, the FCC seems to be doing its job here, lowering the barriers to tech rollout

        No - the FCC is being its usualy regulatory-captured self and imposing rules on others when they don't have the right to, purely in order to allow the telcos to make more money. Remember - Agit Pai was (and will be again) a fully-paid up member of Verizon staff and, it could be argued, still works vigourously on their behalf rather than working to prevent them abusing US citizens.

        The whole thing stinks worse than a haddock left out in the midday sun for weeks.

    2. a123

      FCC Budget Trolls

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: FCC Budget Trolls

        Yes, if there is not a Douglas Adams or Pterry quote to summarise a situation, SCD or Dilbert will do the honours.....

  2. IGotOut Silver badge

    Well surely...

    By the FCC's logic, then the telcos would have no issue whatso ever being legally obliged to either

    A) Roll out coverage to less dense areas using the money saved or

    B) lower phones charges in in heavily populated areas.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well surely...

      Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha, outch, I hurtmyself laughing.

  3. IGotOut Silver badge

    No if only there was...

    a huge telecoms equipment supplier that could supply the most cutting edge 5g hardware for a fraction of the cost of others, thus lowering capital expenditure for all involved.

    Nope can't think of one.

  4. Snake Silver badge


    "small government is best".

    Which is why Das Cheeto's administration not only fixes a market price without feeling the need to show the data used to establish such, they ALSO give themselves the power to veto higher fees in [supposedly free] markets that may support / justify it.

    The Orange One's slight-of-hand at work again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remember...

      Oh, don't throw a trump! You're not two years old, you know.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Remember... Das Cheeto seeks to influence the courts regarding his friend/thug/convicted criminal Roger Stone. But that's OK because we're supposed to be "adult" about it, and allow such things to roll off our backs.

        Tammany Hall 2020 is OK, as long as it's *us* doing the dirty deeds, apparently.

    2. tfewster Silver badge

      Re: Remember...

      Was "slight-of-hand" a clever reference to Trumps supposedly slight (small) hands, or did you mean "sleight"? sleight-vs-slight

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Remember...

        It was late night post. I'll take the "clever" option for $100, please?

  5. LDS Silver badge

    Where's the "light touch regulation" gone?

    When it comes to telco interests, Mr. Pai is ready to act like a Chinese mandarin or Soviet apparatchik, enacting imperial rules?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where's the "light touch regulation" gone?

      The US...socialising costs and privatising profits...

  6. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    A convenient assumption for argument's sake, which the FCC knows full well will never be put into action unless the telco's have a metaphorical gun against their collective head.

  7. oiseau Silver badge

    Nothing new here.

    ... that the money “saved” by forcing cities to charge the minimum price will then be used by mobile operators to fund greater roll-out of 5G cells in the rest of the country ...

    Bullshit FCCshit.

    Just more crap the FCC pulled out of it's ass.

    In the US, the FCC is in the telcos' pockets in the same way regulators in many other countries throughout the world are.

    Communicacion, from wired telephone all the way trough to cable/dish TV, internet in it's various forms and 5G is a public service which has to be properly regulated, in the interest of the public, not in the interest of the telcos.


    1. oiseau Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new here.

      Quite embarrased for having used a apostrophes ie: 's where they make no sense.

      Won't happen again. =-/


      ---> Mine's the one with the Basic Grammar and Usage paperback in the pocket.

  8. Commswonk

    Hang On A Minute...

    Unless I am much mistaken FCC stands for Federal Communications Commission.

    Why is it interfering in matters which its remit does not (or should not) cover? Surely the charges payable by telcos ought to be determined by the owners / operators of the utility poles. If I was the owner of a network of utility poles I would insist that I had the right to determine what charges should be paid by those wishing to rent space on them and that the regulator for the prospective renters should bugger off and mind his own business.

    Perhaps the utility companies should retaliate by specifying the maxmum that they will pay for 'phone calls, i.e. much less than now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hang On A Minute...

      The telco's wanted easy access to street furniture to install there kit. As you state, the owners of the poles expect fair payment for their use - it wouldn't surprise me if telco's expect to be able reclaim costs for equipment damage in the event of a problem with the poles.

      So the telco's agreed on $270/location was fair, called in Pai to discuss the figure and inserted it into his "policy dispenser" while he bent over obligingly.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Hang On A Minute...

        What's a "there kit"?

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Hang On A Minute...

          It's one you put, you know, 'there'.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Hang On A Minute...

        Perhaps the utilities should sell off their poles - yes you dear citizen can own your own utility pole, for which we will pay you a small consideration... Now the pole is no longer owned "by the city", so not subject to the FCC ruling.

        The second thing is to start getting creative about unbundling the charges: the provision of a reliable power supply is not 5G tech, the exact place on the pole you wish to occupy isn't 5G tech, it is just the 'apartment' you are renting to put your 5G tech in...

  9. SVV

    ripping mobile operators off by charging as much as they think they can get away with

    Of course, the saintly mobile operators have never ripped their customers off by charging as much as they think they can get away with, have they?

  10. Kimo

    Cost per pole varies widely. The hourly rate to process depends on the local cost of living and prevailing wages. Des Moines can afford a much lower fee than San Francisco because you have to pay people enough to live in the Bay area.,

    And despite their protests about aesthetic issues, there are real concerns especially in historic districts. Slapping a fuggly bit of kit in the French Quarter or Savannah's old city is different than putting it on the side of a brutalist office slab.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan

      brutalist office slab

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder y'know. There are listed building built in the Brutalist style..

      1. Kimo

        Which would look nice next to a modern 5G unit. It's all about showing the structure and services.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Yes, and besides differences in wages, dense urban areas are likely to present more difficulties when working on utility poles. Busy streets may need traffic control around utility trucks, for example. And in dense urban areas there may be more equipment, on average, on poles - more pole-to-building lines, more pole transformers, and so on - which could complicate installing the 5G units and make installation take longer.

      The FCC's cap is a complete and utter fantasy, simply another example of Pai and his minions openly abusing their power.

  11. JohnFen

    So what?

    > Portland might not think its additional fees were too much but if every other city in Oregon were making similar demands or nationwide, this is prohibitive.

    So what? If cities set the price so high that nobody is willing to install the system, then the system doesn't get installed. That seems like the sort of thing that cities should have the right to decide. The FCC is acting like rolling out 5G is some kind of national security thing that needs to be forced on everyone. It is not, and it shouldn't be.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: So what?


      rolling out 5G is some kind of national security thing


      Of course it is.

      When a city, or even a neighborhood, votes "the wrong way", the granularity of 5G location info makes it much easier to "round up the usual suspects".

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: So what?

        No no, it's more important than 'national security'. The security of the telco's profits is at risk!

        As everyone knows (and if you don't, you soon will citizen!), profits must come before people. It's written in the constitution, in that special section that you don't get to read because you're not rich enough.

  12. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    “How did you get to $270?” Judge Bybee of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked the FCC’s lead lawyer Scott Noveck. “I don’t see much data there.”

    Appropriate inducements to FCC officials (current or deferred) if they played ball?

  13. BuckeyeB

    Why should MY profit affect YOUR cost? Cost is cost.

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