October 14, 2008


Dear Chairman Martin and Commissioners:

On behalf of the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI), I am writing to urge you to place the interests of consumers nationwide ahead of parochial, and too often vague, unidentifiable, or inconsistent local government interests in matters related to timely deployment of wireless facilities.  ACI is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit educational and research institute founded on the belief that consumers’ interests are not satisfactorily represented in a wide variety of public policy proceedings, nor in government decisions in which their welfare is substantially at stake.

Congress in the 1996 Act made clear both its recognition of local concerns and its intention, nevertheless, to remove local zoning impediments to deployment of mobile radio communications services in pursuit of the overriding goal of the Act:  “…to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, nationwide…radio communication service with adequate facilities…”   

After more than a decade, the record makes abundantly clear that unresolved ambiguities in the language of the Act have been exploited by local authorities in ways that deny, delay or otherwise thwart realization of Congress’ intent that local zoning processes governing construction and siting of cell towers not be a barrier to the investment, deployment of towers and development of competition among diverse wireless network services providers.  A recent survey confirms existence of thousands of pending siting applications, hundreds of which have been pending for more than a year, and dozens of which have been pending for three years or more. 

Like Congress, we mean no disrespect for the legitimate concerns of local governments.  But we believe that a true consumer welfare-oriented balance of local versus national concerns will give much greater weight to national concerns than now reflected in the patchwork of denial, delay and uncertainty that is the sum of ongoing local government handling of operators’ requests for permission to construct indispensible inputs into the provision of ubiquitous, competitive wireless services.  

In this context, we believe the Commission should act favorably on the main elements of a Petition filed by the Cellular Telephone Industry Association.[1]  Specifically, we urge the Commission to take action that would (a) impose reasonable time limits on the discretion of local governments to act on facility siting requests and to deem the request granted should the time limit be exceeded, and (b) advise local governments that the Act prohibits zoning decisions that have the practical effect of limiting competition and denying consumers choice.  These actions will serve consumers’ interests by removing local zoning-related barriers to network investment, market competition and consumer choice. 

Respectfully submitted,

Dr. Larry F. Darby

Senior Fellow and Director / ACI           

[1] Petition for Declaratory Ruling, In the Matter of Petition for Petition for Declaratory Ruling to Clarify Provisions of Section 332(c)(7)(B) to Ensure Timely Siting Review and to Preempt under Section 253 State and Local Ordinances that Classify All Wireless Siting Proposals as Requiring a Variance, July 11, 2008.