FCC Offers COVID-19-Related Historic Review Bypass

Works with ACHP to speed critical infrastructure buildouts

The FCC and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the government agency charged with protecting the nation’s “diverse historic resources”, have come up with a process to speed historic reviews of broadband infrastructure buildouts or avoid them for critical deployments. 

The FCC said it wants to make sure that “that critical communications infrastructure projects continue to proceed at a time when so many Americans are relying on high-speed internet services,” and are not held up by pandemic-related delays. Historic preservation site review deadlines, which the FCC implemented, have been tolled (suspended) by ACHP during the pandemic, which the FCC said means that “some urgently needed proposed deployments remain indefinitely delayed.” 

The process allows wireless providers to seek expedited reviews and emergency authorizations for projects that “respond to COVID-19” or are critical to that response, the latter would be the ones wanting emergency authorizations.  

To FCC said it will only grant an emergency authorization, which would essentially bypass the historic review, if the project “addresses public safety or critical infrastructure initiatives prioritized by government or public safety authorities, brings coverage to meet the needs of unserved and underserved areas due to COVID-19 effects, or relieves network congestion due to COVID-19 effects.”   

“I want to commend the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as well for working with us to develop these processes that will ensure that even more Americans can realize the benefits that a high-speed Internet connection can deliver,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has been heading up the FCC’s effort to speed wireless infrastructure buildouts, including by streamlining historic and environmental reviews. 

House Republicans just introduced a bunch of bills that are also intended to streamline those and other reviews during the pandemic and beyond.