This bill, sponsored by the wireless industry, restricts the ability of local agencies to control access to their public right-of-ways and caps the ability of local agencies to collect rent related to small cell siting on that public infrastructure. Despite the measure being opposed by over 125 cities, counties and various organizations, and aside from several questions and congratulatory statements, not a single member spoke in opposition to the legislation. City officials should view the discussion
Ultimately, the measure passed on a 32-1 vote count
The League thanks Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) for casting the lone “No” vote, as well as Sens. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Bill Monning (D-Carmel), Josh Newman (D-San Dimas), Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge), and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) for abstaining. The measure now moves to the Assembly.
Bill Offers Major Benefits to Wireless Industry
There are significant benefits to wireless companies and their shareholders if SB 649 becomes law. Rather than having to negotiate with individual local agencies on siting issues and pay market-rate rents for the privilege of using local public infrastructure, they are seeking to reduce their time and costs with legislative preemption.
This industry-sponsored bill would require cities and counties to lease their public property, especially “vertical infrastructure” (i.e. traffic lights, street lights, city poles) in the public right-of-way (PROW), and any public property outside the PROW in a commercial or industrial use zone, such as a city hall for installation of “small cell” antennas and equipment.
The “small cells” are not actually that small — they can be as large as 6 cubic feet for the antennas and 21 cubic feet for its “associated equipment” on the pole structures. There is no size or quantity limitation for the “ancillary equipment,” which includes electric meters, pedestals, concealment elements, telecommunications demarcation boxes, grounding equipment, power transfer switches, cutoff switches, and vertical cable runs for every small cell installed in your jurisdictions. For these “small cells” to be reliable, they need to be installed in close proximity to one another likely within 1,000 feet.
Furthermore, each subject pole/city property would need to be made available to every provider because of the non-discrimination clause in this bill.
Avoiding Market Rate Rents
Currently some local governments are charging wireless carriers up to $4,000 in annual rent to use the public’s infrastructure. Pending amendments discussed on the Senate floor last night would cap those rents for the average pole at approximately one-tenth of those amounts. This benefits corporate bottom lines, and limits local revenues and opportunities for community amenities.
The bill preserves full discretionary authority in coastal zones and historic districts, but every other community loses their discretion. Should the become law, agreements like the one the city of Sacramento was able to negotiate into with Verizon
will be unavailable in the future.
Priority Access over Local Needs
Under the bill, “small cells” will have priority access to the public’s infrastructure. Cities would have little or no recourse to take down a small cell, let alone allow for public input or meaningful design review for the initial installation. The bill also requires a city to adopt a public resolution for each of their own street lights or traffic lights if they want to allow other uses such as police cameras or solar panels.
No Guarantees of Technology Benefits
In exchange for this legislative “deal,” local governments are left stranded without much recourse or any real benefits. There is no requirement, as the bill is currently drafted, for the “small cells” to provide 5G, 4G, or any standard level of technology, nor does the bill specify the “small cells” need to provide voice or data service. Additionally, despite promises from the wireless industry that this bill will assist in the rapid deployment of 5G technology, the bill has no deployment requirement and the “fee structure” leaves little incentive for the wireless industry to build anywhere outside of the state’s “population hubs.” Instead of getting 5G technology and broadband deployment to unserved and underserved parts of this state, the legislation forces cities to allow access to their infrastructure at well below market rate, strips away the public’s input and recourse, and deprives cities the ability to negotiate any benefit for the public they serve.
- Call and meet with your Assembly Member now! Urge them to oppose this giveaway of community control and resources. The wireless industry lobbyists are already working them.
- Schedule this issue for discussion at a community meeting or your next council meeting and invite your Assembly Member to attend to discuss this measure and its impacts. Your community members need to become aware of how this measure will appropriate the use of local infrastructure, affect community aesthetics and reduce revenue that could be used for community services and amenities.
- With your fellow city council members and mayors, make plans to come to Sacramento when this bill gets assigned to a policy committee in the Assembly.