A bill introduced by Senator Joe Hune (22nd district) and co-sponsored by Mike Nofs (24th district) for the regulation by local authorities of wireless services providers and infrastructure will, “basically take away municipalities rights to control their own rights-of way,” Hastings City Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange said.
Senate Bill 637, introduced in October, would regulate rates and fees to the providers, collocation of wireless facilities and pole attachments, uses of rights-of-way, permitting and zoning reviews, and prohibit commercially discriminatory actions by local authorities and electric utilities as well as prohibiting certain insurance requirements.
The bill, if enacted, would be the "Small Wireless Communications Facilities Deployment Act,” with the purpose to increase investment in wireless networks for better access to emergency services, advanced technology and information and increase investment in wireless networks to enhance competitiveness in the global economy.
It is expected to streamline operations of wireless services in the public rights-of- way, enhance networks services, provide next generation services, and ensure reasonable and fair control of rights-of-ways by governmental units in the state. It is also intended to avoid interference with right-of-way use by existing public utilities and cable communications providers.
The systems are poles of varying heights with an antenna that looks like a garbage can mounted on the top, McNabb-Stange said.
Several years ago the city joined other municipalities, and with advice from the METRO Council, hired a law firm to develop guidelines for wireless providers that they expected would come into the city. If SB 637 becomes law, it will nullify their work, McNabb-Stange said. “We would have to delay projects; all of our rights of way could be riddled with poles.”
The Hastings ordinance calls for a 40 foot limit for poles, however, “one company wants a 120 foot pole. There are a certain number of feet you have to go down to support a standalone pole and that could interfere with our things in the rights of way,” she said.
Large telecommunication companies like AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are going to smaller antenna along rights of way to do away with larger antennas on water towers and other city structures. The city would be able to charge “very, very little money; a $100 fee and no monthly charges,” she said.
“Telecommunication companies are right to want to improve service to their customers, but they are looking to do it for free. The first place they go to is business areas because they go by the number of customers. The rural areas are always overlooked. The county and townships won’t get this kind of service; they’re few and far between.”
“It isn’t law yet, and now the FCC is getting involved,” McNabb-Stange said. “The Metro Council is working with the legislature, they will send us a notice, especially if problems come up, telling us to contact our legislators.”//
A senate fiscal agency analysis said the bill would prohibit, among other things:
* A local authority from entering into an exclusive agreement for use of a right-of-way for work on utility poles or the collocation of small cell wireless facilities
* Charging a wireless provider a rate or fee for the use of a ROW
* Prohibiting, regulating or charging for the changing of collocation of small cell wireless facilities
* Deny an application unless there was a reasonable basis for the denial, and require a denial be supported by substantial evidence.
The bill would permit, among other things:
* A wireless provider to collocate small wireless facilities and work on utility poles in, along, across, upon, and under an ROW, subject to height limitations
* An authority to require a wireless provider to repair any damage to an ROW caused by the provider
* An authority to require an application for a permit, with work to begin within one year after granting a permit.
* Require an application and an application fee for a permit with requirements a zoning approval would have to meet.
* Establish requirements that a rate or fee to collocate a small cell wireless facility on a pole would have to meet.