Coordinating trenching efforts and streamlining approvals of site co-location requests are two of eight recommendations that the FCC’s Technical Advisory Council (TAC) released today for the commission to pursue in an effort to encourage broadband deployment in the near term.

“What the TAC has been doing is saying, ‘What is it that we can recommend that the commission can do now that can use their existing authority and leadership pulpit of the commission to move things ahead … rather than have some long, drawn-out administrative procedure?’” TAC Chairman Tom Wheeler said during a press conference, noting that none of the proposals will require a notice of inquiry or similar procedure.

One of the recommendations would have the FCC establish an online database for all planned trenching work — whether it is for communications, utilities or other endeavors. By making this information public, the hope is that all of the needed work can be completed at once in a given location, instead of having the area impacted by multiple trenching efforts.

“It will reduce the cost of construction, because you only dig once; it will reduce the cost of disruption; and it will spur getting things out there in a coordinated way,” Wheeler said.

In a related matter, the TAC recommended that FCC officials conduct a “road show” throughout the country to educate state and local governments about new technologies such as microtrenching that can make deployment of broadband infrastructure less disruptive for a given location.

Another recommendation calls for the FCC to encourage permitting entities to streamline the process used to consider requests for additional antennas and infrastructure to be added to existing cell sites. The proposal would not impact the processes associated with deploying infrastructure at a new site.

“Hanging another antenna on that [existing] cell site should be a fast decision — not a decision that requires as long as the initial decision took,” Wheeler said. “How do we have a shorter shot clock and do it voluntarily, in the anticipation that, if the municipalities step up to that challenge, it won’t be necessary to do it mandatorily?”

Other TAC recommendations call for the FCC to:

  • Establish a program to recognize governmental entities that use best practices to encourage broadband-infrastructure deployment;
  • Request that President Barack Obama issue an executive order that would mandate a streamlined approval process for antennas to be located on federal buildings and rights of way;
  • Create new metrics to measure broadband network quality beyond cumulative data throughput speeds;
  • Promote the deployment of small-cell technologies, such as femtocells and picocells, to improve spectrum utilization; and
  • Initiate dialog about the transition from legacy telephony services to IP-based technologies, including the associated policies and codes that need to be established for the deployment of the new technologies.

Wheeler said the TAC has not established any of the recommendations as having priority over others.

“I think you start with all of them. Our recommendation to the commission is that all of these recommendations are worthy of pursuit and that we hope the commission will pursue them,” he said.