Coalition Responds to FCC’s Plans to Change NHPA Reviews

Last week the Coalition for American Heritage filed comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s plans to exempt 5G wireless facilities from certain types of historical reviews. The 55-page Draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry contemplates that “The Commission would open a comprehensive review of the legal framework for infrastructure deployment reviews, to identify regulatory barriers and examine how the Commission could act to remove or reduce these barriers…The NPRM would also open a review of FCC rules and procedures for historic preservation (NHPA) and environmental (NEPA) review.”

While FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai claimed in a blog post that such measures were necessary to facilitate speedy construction of next-generation technologies, the Coalition pointed out that the NHPA review process already has flexibility to tailor historic reviews to the needs of a specific agency or industry. Additionally, the Coalition noted that many of the delays experienced by wireless providers arise from chronic underfunding for the state and tribal historic preservation offices charged with reviewing historical compliance, or the FCC’s own processes, rather than underlying structural issues with Section 106.

In its comments, the Coalition stresses that American heritage is a shared community value, a multi-billion-dollar industry, and a significant contributor to a healthy quality of life. Our comments propose several alternative ways the FCC can improve the historic review process without excluding local communities from reviews of projects that have the potential to impact them. You can read the complete Coalition response here. The Coalition looks forward to working with the FCC to find innovative solutions that balance our nation’s wireless infrastructure with preservation of non-renewable historic resources.

The FCC meets April 20 to vote on whether to proceed with publishing the Draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register. Once it is published, there will be a 90-day public comment period. We welcome Coalition supporters to provide their own feedback on the FCC’s proposed changes and to help with future comments on this issue. To volunteer your expertise, please email us.