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Wireless Industry Aims to Limit Local Control over Wireless Facilities, After Efforts in California Defeated by the League

November 9, 2017
The wireless industry is circulating a draft bill in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee that would force local governments to lease out publicly owned infrastructure, eliminate reasonable local environmental and design review, and eliminate the ability for local governments to negotiate fair leases or public benefits for the installation of “small cell” wireless equipment on taxpayer-funded property.
Earlier this year, the wireless industry pursued similar legislation, SB 649 (Hueso), in California that sought to achieve many of the elements present in this draft bill. The bill failed because industry’s effort met  overwhelming opposition from over 325 cities. Opposition focused on concern about shifting authority away from our residents, businesses, and communities over to a for-profit industry whose shareholder returns potentially outweigh their considerations for the health, safety, aesthetic, and public benefits of the communities we serve.
Cities throughout California share the goal of ensuring that all residents have access to affordable, reliable high-speed broadband and eagerly welcome installation of wireless infrastructure in a way that is in collaboration with the industry. However, the wireless industry’s draft federal legislation is similar to legislation in other state legislatures designed to gut the public’s input:
  • Imposing sharply reduced “shot clock” time limits for local governments to process potentially unlimited wireless facility applications for all sizes;
  • “Deem granted” applications for facilities when local governments are unable to meet the stringent time limits;
  • Approving applications regardless of their safety, health or environmental impacts; and
  • Interfering with local governments’ management of the public’s property and their ability to receive appropriate compensation for use of public infrastructure. 
Elements, such as the complete elimination of lease agreements and reduced of “shot-clock” timelines for permit approval, in the federal draft legislation are worse than the failed SB 649.
The League encourages cities to contact their U.S. senator and representatives to urge a more balanced approach for any efforts to improve broadband deployment and to oppose introduction of the draft bill in its current form, which simply guts local government and its citizen input out of the process.
The League’s opposition letter is available online.

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