US judges delivered a blow to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan to cut red tape around the deployment of small cells, ruling installations could not bypass environmental and historical preservation reviews.

A US appeals court, which had been considering proposals designed to speed-up deployment of technology deemed vital to 5G networks, concluded: “The Commission failed to justify its confidence that small cell deployments pose little-to-no cognisable religious, cultural or environmental risk, particularly given the vast number of proposed deployments”.

The judges did, however, pass several provisions in the FCC’s wider proposal. These included clauses preventing parties demanding upfront fees before reviewing proposed sites, and an accelerated timeline for reviews. Some elements of the FCC’s plans were not addressed in the case.

Commissioner Brendan Carr said the FCC was reviewing the section of the proposal the court took issue with, but welcomed the rest of the conclusions.

In a Tweet, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the decision meant: “The agency tasked with the future of connectivity didn’t get it right. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and do better.”

Over the last year, the FCC has called for several changes in planning systems to ease the installation of technologies to aid 5G, including streamlining of small cell siting and installation, though its proposals have met opposition from a number of parties.