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Published on Monday, April 24, 2017

Likely action on small cell telecommunications facility permitting "5G" bill

Normally the end of the legislative session means that either legislative proposals have survived and are headed to the Governor for his signature, or bills are considered dead for the year. Technically SB 5711, the bill informally known as the 5G bill, is dead for this year since it failed to pass the Senate prior to the cutoff for bills in the house of origin. However, cities, PUDs, Ports, and various telecommunications industry representatives have been in regular discussions with staff in the Governor’s office to talk about Part 1, siting and permitting small cell facilities; Part 2, pole attachment rates; and Part 3, rural broadband deployment. The Governor’s office has stated they have a strong interest in the development of more access to broadband services in unserved and under-served areas of our state. The telecommunications industry has an interest in lowering their cost of attaching telecommunications facilities on poles and speeding up the time it takes to site and permit their small cell equipment. In addition, cities are interested in protecting their responsibility to manage the public rights of way and city-owned property, while providing an efficient process for permitting and siting this infrastructure.

As mentioned in previous Bulletin articles, cities have offered an alternative to preemption of authority that was included in the original version of the bill. Under our proposal, cities with populations of more than 5,000 would enact a small cell facility deployment ordinance that outlines the standards and process for issuing small cell permits. Cities would also exempt small cell facilities from conditional use permits on existing poles, while retaining this option when new poles are needed. This proposal would have no effect on previously adopted franchises, permits or agreements for small cell facilities. The proposal calls for the ordinance process to address design standards, public process, fees and cost recovery, and standards for facilities outside the rights of way.

We anticipate the discussions will continue into the special session. Our goal has been to avoid preemption while being responsive to the new telecommunications infrastructure that many communities will be working to accommodate in the next couple of years.

Categories: Telecommunications