New technology brings new challenges. Citizens, including those in Hastings, want maximum capabilities for their data devices and city officials want to provide it, but at the same time, that leads to differences in the methods used to get the increased services when cities have no controls in place for its installation.
Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) is new way of boosting cellular coverage and capacity and cheaper than the macro towers used by giant telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon. The antennas, with different styles, are mounted on new poles or existing utility poles, street lights and traffic lights in public rights-of-way bring more service to nearby areas.
Companies plans for DAS sometimes conflict with municipal officials who want to make sure that permitting the technology doesn’t interfere with what city officials and residents want and need for their communities.
Hastings and other municipalities are anticipating future requests from companies to install equipment in their rights-of-way by developing guidelines to control what the infrastructure will look like, how much there will be and where it will go.
Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange, who represents Hastings at the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, reported Feb. 13 that the Mobilitie Company has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for an interpretation and a ruling on 253c of the Communications Act of 1939.
Hastings and other municipalities, with the Metro Council acting as fiduciary, will each contribute $300 for an attorney to develop a response to the petition going to the FCC, encouraging federal officials to “protect local communities independent control over our rights-of-way,” McNabb-Stange said.
“We are banding together to do the right thing…we’re trying to be fair… but we oppose any effort to restrict our rights…it’s a service we feel our citizens want, and the taxpayers have the right to control their rights-of-way,” she said.//
The city of Hastings granted one request for antennas in its rights-of-way a few years ago based on mistaken information that it was governed by the Metro Act and had to be allowed. The city later found that the Metro Act does not authorize installation of antenna, but officials realized they had no rules in place to address future requests sure to come.
In January, 2016 Hastings City Council voted to contribute financially to a similar consortium of both Metro Council members and non-members to retain an attorney to develop guidelines for companies to follow when applying for infrastructure or space to increase high speed internet capability in cities rights-of-way.
What resulted was a packet with a cover letter, a sample license/franchise, a Metro Act permit applicaton and zoning checklist to give companies that apply to use cities rights-of-ways. Attorney Jeff Sluggett told the city council in August, 2016, that the law is “crystal clear.” Hastings has control of its rights-of-way… and can deny applicants access to its rights-of-way. They don’t have to allow them at all.” he said.
City officials say they recognize that it is a valuable service for its residents and the demand is greatly expanding with the ever increasing use of mobile data. But, each municipality must have the right to decide how to best fit their city’s needs, McNabb-Stange said.
Pole heights, a new ordinance, zoning issues, liability, application, license and monthly fees, co-locations, site plan reviews, performance bonds, safety issues, site design and much more will have to be decided by individual cities.
Mobilitie, a large international company provides the foundation for carriers to offer wireless communications in difficult to cover areas, including DAS that provides improved coverage and capacity for all wireless carriers at the largest venues and most challenging locations in the country, according to its website.
“Our complete wireless infrastructure solutions include funding, designing, building, operating and maintaining neutral host outdoor and indoor DAS networks, Small Cells, Wi-Fi networks and communication towers,” its website said. The company headquarters are in Newport Beach, California, with offices in Panama City, Panama, Tokyo, Japan and London in the United Kingdom.