Wireless communications services include cellular telephone, paging, personal communications services, public safety, and commercial and private radio services. Cultivating growth and encouraging innovation in the wireless arena is a key Federal Communications Commission (FCC) goal. The FCC oversees the spectrum bands that facilitate the use of wireless communications by commercial interests, as well as state and local governments. The agency’s spectrum goals include ensuring that all wireless operations co-exist; that public safety communications are effective; that innovative and modern services are provided to the public; and that access to spectrum results from open and transparent processes. The FCC is responsible for administering spectrum auctions, funds from which are paid to the U.S. Treasury (as cited from the FCC website.)
Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 gives local governments zoning authority over the deployment of wireless telecommunication facilities subject to several specific guidelines: First, land use development standards may not unreasonably discriminate among the wireless providers, and may not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the deployment of wireless infrastructure. For example, some communities adopted development standards restricting the distance between towers to 3 miles. In some geographic locations with sparse populations this may have been adequate for the 1G deployment; however the Laws of Physics make it impossible for 2G wireless deployments to meet this spacing requirement. Without realizing it, some communities inadvertently prohibited the deployment of 2G. Second, local governments must act on applications for new wireless infrastructure within a “reasonable" amount of time. Should a community adopt a moratorium on new wireless deployment, it must be for a limited amount of time, and the community must demonstrate a “good-faith" effort to resolve outstanding issues during the moratorium time period. And third, incentives may be adopted to promote the location of telecommunications facilities in certain designated areas, and the Act encourages the use of third party professional review of site applications. Lastly, provided that the wireless provider meets the federal standards, local government cannot deny an application for a new wireless facility or the expansion of an existing facility on the grounds that radio frequency emissions are harmful to the environment or to human health.