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City of Arlington, Texas v. Federal Communications Commission

United States Supreme Court
569 U.S. 290 (2013)


Congress delegated rulemaking authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (defendant) to implement the Communications Act of 1934. This authority subsequently applied to the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1966 (Act), which limited the ability of local governments to regulate the placement of wireless communication towers. The Act identified five specific limitations, one of which required local governments to act on tower-location applications within a reasonable period of time (reasonableness provision). The Act also included a savings clause, which stated that the five enumerated limitations were the only limitations on local decision-making authority. In response to an inquiry from an industry group representing the wireless-communications industry, the FCC issued a declaratory ruling that interpreted the reasonableness provision as imposing a rebuttable presumption of timeliness for certain application decisions. The City of Arlington, Texas and other state and local governments (plaintiffs) petitioned the court of appeals for review of the FCC’s ruling, arguing that the FCC lacked the authority to interpret the reasonableness provision. The court of appeals upheld the FCC’s ruling, finding that the savings clause was ambiguous regarding its effect on the FCC’s authority to interpret the reasonableness provision. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

Concurrence (Breyer, J.)

Dissent (Roberts, C.J.)

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