US local govts pushed on timely wireless reviews

WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) - A rule aimed at prodding local governments to make faster reviews of applications to erect wireless antennas, was adopted by U.S. communications regulators on Wednesday.

The five-member Federal Communications Commission unanimously agreed to give local governments 90 days to determine whether to co-locate an antenna on an existing tower and 150 days for new sites.

If there is still no decision, then an applicant has 30 days to take the case to court.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that of the 3,300 pending zoning applications for wireless facilities last year, more than 760 had been pending for more than a year and 180 had been pending for more than three years.

The wireless industry says state and local governments have in some cases resisted making decisions on adding more antennas to current towers and putting up new sites due to concerns about how towers would affect property values.

Local governments, concerned about ceding authority to the federal government on property zoning issues, could challenge the new rules in court.

The antenna rule, backed by the wireless industry, comes as the Federal Communications Commission crafts a national high-speed Internet plan aimed at increasing adoption throughout the country.

The rule will be effective on formal release by the FCC, which is expected on Wednesday.

Companies such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc T.N are seeking to deploy the next generation of wireless products and services to meet growing consumer demand. Verizon Wireless is a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N and Vodafone Group Plc VOD.L.

Genachowski said the rule would help speed the deployment of the new 4G networks, “while also respecting the legitimate concerns of local authorities and preserving their control over local zoning and land use policies.” (Reporting by John Poirier; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)