With FCC order, Syracuse loses potential revenue stream from small cell tech

Feb 12, 2019

The city of Syracuse is losing what could have been some extra income, with the implementation of small cell 5G technology on street poles. The federal government is dictating how states and municipalities can regulate the deployment of 5G.

It’s being described as the future of cellular. 5G cell phone technology can have data rates 100 times faster than its predecessor, which will not only better connect cell phones, but also self-driving cars. Syracuse was planning on charging between $500-950 in annual fees for telecom companies to install 5G small cell facilities. But Federal Communications Commission regulations are set to take effect that caps the fee at $270 a year, essentially, covering the costs of operation. Christine Elliott, Syracuse’s director of administration, said it's a disappointment. 

“The FCC ruling has removed a bit of our ability to make these determinations and negotiations at a local level,” Elliott said. 

But she adds that the focus is on the equitable distribution of 5G throughout the entire city, and not just in certain areas.

“There are plenty of people in this city that have to go outside to use their cell phone," Elliott said. "That’s not the way it should be in the modern era. Our goal is, as this new wave of technology comes out, is that we are first in line to say bring it here and bring it for all of our citizens.”

Councilor-at-Large Michael Greene said the FCC has stripped the autonomy away from local municipalities.

"It's essentially exactly what the corporations in this industry wanted," Greene said. "So, you're looking at a ruling that came down from an administration that's pretty close to a lot of corporate donors that gave a ruling that was exactly what those corporations were looking for. It's frustrating from that standpoint."

The city will have some control over the aesthetics of the small cell facilities. The Syracuse Common Council will first have to rescind a 2017 ordinance that is in conflict with the new FCC regulations, before deals can be made with telecom companies. This comes as the city is borrowing $38 million to buy 17,000 street lights from National Grid.