FCC Clarifies “Shot Clock” for Wireless Facility Siting

On November 18, 2009, the FCC published a declaratory ruling clarifying certain ambiguous sections of the revised Communications Act of 1934. The ruling addresses concerns of an industry advocacy group — the Wireless Infrastructure Association (PCIA) — regarding perceived bottlenecks to wireless infrastructure expansion arising at the local government level.

The 42-page document has the effect of quantifying time limits on local jurisdictions to approve or deny the siting of a wireless facility. The limit has been set at 150 days excluding co-location sites which have a time limit of 90 days. This “shot clock” can be frozen by the local jurisdiction should the applicant need to provide additional information or by a mutual agreement of both parties. If the time limit is exceeded, the applicant has the option of bringing the matter to court. The time limit imposed by the FCC is meant to streamline the construction of wireless infrastructure and does not modify the authority of any local agency.

The ruling also clarifies a section of the revised Communication Act of 1934 noting that a local government cannot deny an application solely on the basis that a different carrier is already serving the area.