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Oct 29

Lame Duck Preview: Small Cell Wireless Bill

Posted on October 29, 2021 at 12:09 PM by Amy Spiezio

As the lame-duck session approaches, the League anticipates a number of bills to begin to move quickly through the legislature.  One of those bills, which we have been closely engaged on, is the small cell/5G wireless legislation; S-2674.  

The League opposes this legislation because it would restrict the ability of local governments to regulate the placement of small cell wireless facilities on public infrastructure and limit the compensation that may be collected for use of these public assets.   

As most are keenly aware, small cell wireless facilities are needed to deploy 5G and the next generation of broadband internet access.  The facilities are not like the current wireless facilities that function using large towers and antennas.  Instead, because 5G does not travel as far as current wireless waves, smaller, more numerous antennas are needed to develop a functioning system.  And, wireless service providers have offered that the most efficient and cost-effective way is to place these antenna and small cell facilities within the public rights-of-way.  

Being a limited asset, it is up to local officials to manage and protect the municipal rights-of-way for current and future use.  Recent federal regulations, however, preempt State and local authority to regulate small cell facility deployment.  Leaving local officials limited in their ability to act as appropriate managers, with S-2674 acting to further limit local authority.    

From the beginning the League identified four main concerns with this legislation, including (1) permit review “shot clocks” which set an unrealistic timeline for proper review and approval of the volume of permit applications expected, (2) a “deemed approved” provision which would automatically grant approval to a permit applications should a municipality miss a deadline for permit review, (3) a hard cap on permit application review fees which are almost surely not enough to fully cover the municipal costs associated with permit review, and (4) restriction on the aesthetic requirements municipalities can place on the equipment being placed within the public rights of way.

A-1116, the Assembly companion for S-2674 has already passed in the full Assembly with a disappointing vote of 63-9-2.  S-2674, however, still faces consideration by the full Senate.   We will continue to work with the sponsors and other stakeholders to craft legislation to address all these issues but will oppose S-2674 as currently drafted and will work to prevent its passage during lame duck.  

Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., Associate General Counsel, or 609-695-3481 x 137.


Tag(s): Lame Duck