In January of 2019, the FCC stripped most local control relating to "small cell" wireless facilities away from every city in the United States. Most everyone uses a cell phone or other wireless apparatus on a daily basis. Generally, the more demand for wireless results in the need for more wireless facilities.
In 1996, the federal legislature determined there was a need to create uniform regulations for wireless facilities in order to expand the wireless system across the United States. Prior to 1996, every city, county, and state, had the authority to draft its own rules and laws. The 1996 Telecommunications Act creates uniform regulations and takes away local government control in certain aspects. For instance, prior to adoption of the Act, a city could establish its own radio frequency (RF) thresholds for safety determinations. The Act took away this power.
Today, no city in the country can regulate a facility on the basis of RF emissions concerns if the facility meets the RF standards adopted by the federal government. Still, cities maintained local control on other aspects of wireless facilities. For example, it could regulate a facility based on how it looked, where it was located, and how much it could charge for using the public right-of-way. Cities could also create its own timeline for processing requests for new facilities.
In September 2018, the FCC adopted new rules to expedite and streamline the roll-out of small cell wireless facilities. Two key components are: (1) a “shot-clock” was adopted that restricts local government review and consideration of a small cell wireless facility to either 60 or 90 days; and (2) the amount of money that can be charged by the local government to use the public right-of-way was significantly reduced. Many cities, including the City of Thousand Oaks, opposed these new regulations. Unfortunately, the FCC adopted the rules despite significant opposition by cities across the country. These rules became effective as new law on January 19, 2019.