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Published on Friday, January 12, 2018

Two bills related to small cells to get hearings this week

The Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee will hold a public hearing on SB 5935 at 10 am on Thursday, January 18. The hearing will be on a proposed substitute to the bill which will be released soon. SB 5935 was originally introduced last year and was developed with significant input from local governments partially in response to an industry sponsored bill (SB 5711) that we strongly opposed.

The latest version of the prosed substitute that we were able to review would require cities with a population greater than 5,000 to enact a small cell facility deployment ordinance or policy that meets the requirements in the bill. We believe that the requirements are flexible enough to give cities the ability to adopt an ordinance or policy that meets their own needs. Only those cities that have been approached by a provider wanting to site small cells would be required to comply with this provision. Those cities that have already adopted appropriate policies or ordinances would not need to take additional action.

The proposed substitute will also contain provisions related to improving broadband access for underserved areas. When the substitute version of the bill becomes available it should be posted here.

The House Technology and Economic Development Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 2592 on Thursday, January 18 at 1:30 pm. The bill, sponsored by the committee chair Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon) contains a new approach on this issue.

It would set up a program by which local governments who adopt permitting processes for small cell facilities or networks meeting certain criteria would be designated as “being investment ready for advanced and new wireless technologies.” The Department of Commerce would be charged with reviewing submissions from local governments and maintaining an online list of those jurisdictions deemed to meet the criteria.

This incentive approach is much preferable to the preemptive language we saw last year in SB 5711. Some of the qualifying criteria in this bill could dissuade some local governments from trying to achieve the “investment ready” designation. In particular there is language related to limits on charges for pole attachments (i.e. attaching small cell facilities to city-owned utility poles), and restrictions on permits for replacement and maintenance activities. It’s also unclear how passage of this bill would affect local governments that have already adopted or are nearing adoption of small cell ordinances or franchise/master permit processes. Those jurisdictions would need to assess if it is worthwhile to change course and/or go through the application process in order to attain the “investment ready” designation.

We encourage cities to read this bill and provide comments to Dave Catterson. Comments provided before noon on January 18 would be most helpful.

Categories: Telecommunications