It’s been some thirty years since the first commercial cell phone calls were made in NYC ushering in a new era in communications. It was the 80s and many of us recall the “brick” – first generation analog technology with the clarity of a phonograph and a price point only the “Wolves of Wall Street” could afford. It was a call from McCaw Cellular, led by one of our industry’s great entrepreneurs, Craig McCaw, that introduced “mobility” to Cuddy & Feder.
It was a pioneering time then with the need for legal assistance with real estate, zoning and environmental challenges impacting the first cellular deployments. While the firm, quite frankly, had never heard of a “cell tower” before, its experience in representing cable companies, fiber optic wholesalers, and local exchanges allowed us to quickly tool a practice to support this new cellular industry. Early victories in classifying cellular providers as public utilities for local zoning purposes and brokering municipal and property owner relationships helped the cellular industry succeed in its first deployments.
It’s hard to imagine that several decades later, we’re in the fourth generation of wireless technology deployments, and already talking about 5G deployments as we approach 2016!
So where are we at this moment in time? It’s clearly an exciting time to be in mobility and I submit we are in a new “pioneering” era of wireless – this one quickened by technology and convergence. The wireless industry continues to grow, meet new challenges and deliver on new opportunities. Connected cars, the Internet of Things or Everything, M2M, mobile health, and new applications are driving further innovation for businesses and consumers and contributing to economic growth. Technologies including MIMO, location based services, WiFi and others are accelerating the tremendous pace of change in mobility. New infrastructure solutions are also meeting head on the need for network densification with new modalities of delivering wireless services including iDAS, oDAS, and small cells.
For our part, we led early victories to categorize tower infrastructure as a public necessity for zoning purposes, were lead counsel in several precedent setting cases since adoption of the Telecommunications Act twenty years ago, have stopped municipal consultant abuses and delays, and furthered the Shot Clock and 6409 through judicial and municipal interpretations. We continue to advocate daily for the industry in administrative proceedings from historic preservation, zoning, environmental and siting permits, and in support of state legislation to streamline siting and open up new lands for infrastructure. We are also negotiating with property owners and municipalities on real estate deals and ROW consents for fiber, DAS and small cells. Yet, perhaps not unsurprisingly, state and local barriers to mobility continue to challenge our industry. Now more than ever, people with credibility and knowledge in our industry must step forward and lead effective advocacy at the state and local level.
Because these barriers persist, industry needs more than just “lawyers”, it requires counselors and advocates with Cuddy & Feder’s depth of experience and knowledge who can help accelerate solutions effectively. It’s why as a firm we give back through our volunteer time, scholarship, mentoring and participation in organizations that can make a positive change in delivering on the promise of mobility. Whether it’s PCIA, as leaders; members of its Innovation and Technology Council, as founders; President and Regulatory Chairs of the New York State Wireless Association; or as NYC Chair of the Women in Wireless Leadership Forum; our wireless attorneys are more than just counselors, problem solvers, and litigators. We’re advocates for our industry – and look forward to pioneering the new legal solutions needed for this next generation of wireless.