Permanent Injunction Upheld for National Communications Infrastructure Company
August 11, 2023 Case Study
Crown Castle Fiber, L.L.C. v. City of Pasadena, Texas, No. 22-20454 (5th Cir. Aug. 4, 2023)
On August 4, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a permanent injunction in favor of Beck Redden’s client, Crown Castle.
Crown Castle, the nation’s largest provider of shared communications infrastructure, intends to expand next-generation wireless infrastructure and services through a small cell network in the City of Pasadena, Texas. In contrast to traditional “macro towers,” small cell technology requires placement of small wireless antennas and radios in the public right-of-way. Known as “small cell nodes,” they provide additional capacity in targeted areas—allowing more users to experience improved wireless services in densely populated areas.
The City of Pasadena, however, adopted regulations that prevented Crown Castle from deploying its network. More specifically, the City prohibited the installation of new poles to hold small cell nodes anywhere within 300 feet of existing utility poles. In residential areas, the City also required wireless equipment to be buried underground. Notably, the City’s restrictions were specifically targeted at small cell technology.
Because federal law prohibits such discriminatory regulations like the City’s that prohibit new telecommunications services, a federal district court permanently enjoined the City from enforcing its regulations. In a unanimous decision authored by Judge Jerry Smith, the Fifth Circuit upheld Crown Castle’s district court victory.
The Fifth Circuit agreed that Crown Castle may seek injunctive relief against local regulations that are contrary to federal law. On the merits, the opinion holds that the district court properly followed the FCC’s understanding of the Federal Telecommunications Act. Because the City’s regulations violate federal law and effectively prohibit Crown Castle’s ability to deploy its network, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the permanent injunction.
Beck Redden’s trial team included partner Jeff Golub and associate Marty Gatens. The appeal was handled by Beck Redden appellate attorney Joshua Smith, who also developed the briefing strategy in the federal district court. Partner Russell Post delivered the oral argument on appeal.