The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the imposition of strict guidelines on local authorities, in a bid to speed the installation of small cells and slash operator administration costs.

New rules introduce tight deadlines on local government agencies when reviewing applications for wireless infrastructure and restrict fees to “reasonable costs” for processing the paperwork and managing deployments around public spaces.

The policy was outlined in early September as part of a number of statements from commissioners calling for updated planning rules to ease 5G rollout, with the ultimate aim of helping the US win the race to 5G.

However, the FCC’s proposal provoked the ire of local authorities. Several lodged formal complaints against the plan, arguing the rules were too extreme and placed an unreasonable burden on them.

In a statement welcoming the new rules, FCC chairman Ajit Pai (pictured, second from right) said: “There are some local governments that don’t like this order. They would like to continue extracting as much money as possible in fees from the private sector and forcing companies to navigate a maze of regulatory hurdles in order to deploy wireless infrastructure. But these actions are not only unlawful, they’re also short-sighted.”

“They slow the construction of 5G networks and will delay if not prevent the benefits of 5G from reaching American consumers,” he added. “When you raise the cost of deploying wireless infrastructure, it is those who live in areas where the investment case is the most marginal – rural areas or lower-income urban areas – who are most at risk of losing out.”

Three of the four FCC commissioners backed the new rules in their entirety, with Jessica Rosenworcel (pictured, left) agreeing “in part” with the regulation. She noted the decision “cut out” local authorities, many of which would have existing agreements and deployments “interfered with” as a result of the new policy.