Supreme Court Defers To FCC On Cell Tower Building
May 20, 2013

Controversial Supreme Court Decision Defers To FCC

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

The Supreme Court today ruled that the FCC is allowed to speed along to the production of new wireless towers if things get mired in red tape or other hassles. Following a 6-3 victory, the Supreme Court also said they´ll defer to the FCC when it comes to laws pertaining to the FCC and their jurisdiction.

This move not only gives the Supreme Court another federal body to look to when determining cases involving ambiguous and sticky statutes, but also works to solve the problem of cities and local governments taking too much time to build cell towers. Previously the FCC ruled that that 90 and 150-day deadlines regarding these towers was fair. With today´s decision, the Supreme Court will now uphold the FCC´s wishes.

According to Reuters, AT&T Inc., Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA Inc. and Verizon Wireless all stood in support of giving the FCC the power to speed along the building process. There were those who opposed this decision, of course, including Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy. Bloomberg reported that Roberts even went as far as to cite an excerpt from the Federalist Papers, a collection of articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. In these papers, Madison warned that “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands ... may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

“It would be a bit much to describe the result as ℠the very definition of tyranny,´ but the danger posed by the growing power of the administrative state cannot be dismissed,” wrote Roberts.

The local governments of Arlington, Texas, San Antonio, Texas and Los Angeles, California also opposed this decision, saying the FCC´s 90 to 150-day deadlines do not give them enough time to enforce their local zoning standards. This ruling has helped to define how much the Supreme Court should defer to specialist government agencies when considering regulations. These local governments, for instance, had hoped the Supreme Court would come to their own conclusion rather than deferring to the FCC.

Arlington and San Antonio were both battling the FCC over a 2009 ruling which claimed local governments must handle applications to build new towers in a “reasonable period of time,” or 90 to 150 days. Today´s decision not only means that the FCC will be able to uphold their 90 to 150 day deadline, but that the Supreme Court will now look to them to settle cases regarding laws of this kind.

Justice Antonin Scalia, on the other hand, mentioned several instances where the Supreme Court had trusted the expertise of certain federal agencies.

“Where Congress has established a clear line, the agency cannot go beyond it," said Justice Scalia, according to Reuters.

“Where Congress has established an ambiguous line, the agency can go no further than the ambiguity will fairly allow."