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Why 5G Internet Is a Policy Minefield for Cities

The next generation of wireless internet needs lots of new equipment in public spaces. The federal government just limited what cities can do about that, and mayors say they’re prepared to fight back.
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Yves Herman/Reuters

This week, four U.S. cities are getting their first taste of the next generation of wireless internet. Verizon began rolling out its 5G residential service on Monday in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, bringing this superfast wireless broadband to customers for the first time. But it arrives just as local governments find their hands tied at governing how these networks—and all the equipment they require—will fit into their communities.

That’s because, on Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission restricted cities’ ability to regulate 5G infrastructure. Under the new rules, local governments face tight deadlines to approve or reject the installation of this new cellular equipment. The rules also put limits on how much money cities can charge wireless firms for the privilege of putting hardware in public rights of way.