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One of Ajit Pai's attempts to eliminate regulation of 5G deployment has been overturned by federal judges.

The Federal Communications Commission last year approved an order that "exempted most small cell construction from two kinds of previously required review: historic-preservation review under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)," federal judges said in their decision partially overturning the order.

The FCC claimed its deregulation of small cells was necessary to spur deployment of 5G wireless networks. But the commission was sued by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, the Blackfeet Tribe, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The FCC order was of particular interest to tribal groups because it affected construction on "sites of religious and cultural importance to federally recognized Indian Tribes," the judges noted. "The Order also effectively reduced Tribes' role in reviewing proposed construction of macrocell towers and other wireless facilities that remain subject to cultural and environmental review."

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