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Published on Friday, February 24, 2017

Cities propose alternative to telecommunications providers’ sweeping preemption bill

As we have been reporting since last December, a coalition of some telecommunications providers has been working to advance legislation aimed at advancing the deployment of new telecommunications technology that relies upon small cell networks. Unfortunately, the path they have chosen is to introduce a bill that contains sweeping preemption of cities’ current authority to manage the public rights-of-way, set appropriate fees to cover costs, and adopt permitting processes that accommodate installation of new telecommunications facilities while addressing community concerns. We have expressed our strong opposition to the industry’s proposal.

Recently key legislators asked us to bring forward our own alternative and we have been working with a group of volunteers from a number of cities to come up with such a proposal. The language of the proposal is still being finalized, but in summary, this proposal would require cities with a population greater than 5,000 to develop “procedures for the approval of master permit for the deployment of microcells, small cell facilities and small cell networks.” Cities would be given a year after the effective date of the bill to carry out this task. Cities that have already adopted policies for the permitting of such facilities would be exempt from this new requirement. Additional language describes items that should be included in the master permit process. In essence, this proposal would require some cities to move forward in adopting a permitting process for small cell facilities, but it would preserve your current authority to adopt a process and fee structure that works for your city and your community while complying with state and federal law.

The fate of this alternative proposal is uncertain at this time. AWC continues to strongly oppose the preemptive language currently included in SB 5711 that could be scheduled for a vote on the floor of the Senate at any time. It is our hope that the Senate will choose to adopt our alternative proposal, or alternately, not move the bill at all (less likely). Please contact your senators immediately and urge them to adopt the AWC supported striking amendment to SB 5711. If the bill does pass the Senate, we will then turn our attention to the House.

If you would like more information about this issue, please contact Dave Catterson or Victoria Lincoln.

Categories: Telecommunications