Wireless Site Applications: It's My Party (the FCC) and I'll Decide How I Want To


When a Federal statute is ambiguous, who gets to decide what it means — judges or the agency in charge of administering the statute? In its recent holding in City of Arlington v. Federal Communications Commission issued earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the latter.

Although the Court’s ruling pertains to a narrow issue of administrative law, the City of Arlington decision, which centered around FCC guidelines for local government approval of wireless site applications, may have practical implications for the telecommunications industry. As anyone involved in the wireless telecommunications industry knows, wireless telecommunications networks require towers and antennas; proposed sites for those towers and antennas must be approved by local zoning authorities. The City of Arlington decision may result in more timely local approvals of installations of wireless service equipment and upgrades. However, the decision may also impose a financial strain on local zoning and planning agencies, which may end up being passed down to the wireless provider or building owner and tenant (the customers).

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