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The next wave in wireless technology rollout is poised to be “small cell” technology, but local regulations have hindered deployment for years. Localities have looked at this kind of infrastructure deployment as a piggy bank. But there are ways forward that governments can take to ease some of the onerous regulatory processes.

Current rules typically force wireless companies to go through regulatory procedures that were put in place for giant cellphone towers for each individual small cell, despite the fact that small cell technology will both supplement and complement the large towers going forward — and the need for dozens, if not more, small cells per each large tower.

Local governments have refused to adapt their regulatory regimes to new technologies, and small cells are no different. The permitting process typically involves mountains of paperwork for both the tech companies and the local bureaucrats. There are, of course, fees for each installation. Too many localities would prefer to keep the status quo in place and continue collecting that money, even if it means a slower rollout.

There are ways to update this. New Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has praised the 2014 Mobile BILD Act, Georgia’s statewide update of their wireless infrastructure laws. The BILD act streamlined the permitting process for wireless infrastructure and limited the fees that localities could collect from wireless infrastructure companies.

Other states are pushing forward as well. The Virginia legislature this week is considering SB1282, legislation that would vastly update its infrastructure regulatory regime on a statewide basis. Passage would enable faster rollout of the next generation of wireless technology to the benefit of its residents across the state. While legislation like this is not a cure-all, legislative efforts can be a huge boon.

In addition to providing better internet capacity to consumers, opening up the small-cell regulatory regime can create thousands of infrastructure jobs and unlock tens of millions of dollars of investment, according to a report from Accenture done in conjunction with wireless association CTIA. This would mean that cities in Virginia from Arlington to Virginia Beach, under the new regime, could see a huge economic boost.

The outdated infrastructure regulatory regime that most cities still impose on wireless infrastructure across the country is holding back the next big wave of consumer technology. While success stories abound, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Taking a cue from those places that have had success, like Georgia, could help other states take the next step.

Kevin Glass (@KevinWGlass) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is director of outreach and policy at The Franklin Center and was previously managing editor at Townhall. His views here are his own. If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

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