Verizon squares off with City of Rochester, New York, over 5G install fees

Verizon is in a dustup with the city of Rochester, New York, over the fees related to deploying its 5G gear and the fiber needed to provision 5G.

According to published reports, Verizon recently filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York that said Rochester’s fees are higher than those allowed by federal law.

In February, WROC reported that the Rochester City Council passed new regulations that would limit the number of fiber nodes and new cell towers that companies could install.

Verizon cited a Federal Communications Commission pre-emption order from 2018 that seeks to limit the fees and aesthetic requirements that cities and towns can impose on service provider deployments, according to a story by Ars Technica.

In September 2018, the FCC passed a wireless pre-emption order that it said would help streamline 5G small cell deployments and ensure that wireless carriers have low-cost access to public rights of way and existing support structures such as city-owned utility poles and street lights, according to a story by FierceWireless.

The FCC said the order was necessary to “help ensure the United States wins the global race to 5G,” by removing regulatory barriers that it claims would “unlawfully inhibit the deployment of infrastructure necessary to support these new services.”

Verizon could win its lawsuit against the city of Rochester if the FCC pre-emption order stands, but Ars Technica said the FCC is being sued by cities from Washington Oregon, Arizona and California, which have said the pre-emption order is illegal.

“The City of Rochester is dedicated to ensuring its infrastructure is protected and maintained to benefit taxpayers,” according to a statement released Monday by Rochester officials in regards to Verizon’s complaint. “Other communications providers are complying with the law while building out their networks and paying the necessary fees. These fees are comparable to what other cities required. The City is confident in our position against this frivolous lawsuit. We will have no further comment on pending litigation.”

According to Ars Technica, Verizon said in its lawsuit that fees such as $1,500 per year for attaching a small cell to a city-owned pole stand in sharp contrast to “the FCC Ruling/Order” on rates. The FCC said that small cell fees of up to $270 per year were “presumptively consistent” with the federal law. Cities can charge more, but the FCC says they have to prove that they are a reasonable approximation of costs and are non-discriminatory, according to Ars Technica.

Verizon said when it asked the city of Rochester to provide cost justification for its rates, “the city didn’t provide any substantiation based on cost,” according to the lawsuit.