TR Daily State, Local Groups Blast Small Cell Legislation
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Monday, July 30, 2018

State, Local Groups Blast Small Cell Legislation

Six groups representing state and local interests have blasted small cell legislation introduced last month by Sens. John Thune (R., S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), the ranking member of the communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee, saying the measure will make it more difficult for state and local government to ensure the deployment of small cell infrastructure.

The Streamlining The Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance Small Cell Deployment Act (or STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act) (S 3157) would impose deadlines for state and local action on small cell applications and include a “deemed granted” remedy sought by the wireless industry if deadlines were missed (TR Daily, June 28). It also would impose restrictions on the fees that states and localities can charge for processing applications or using rights of way. The bill has drawn support from wireless industry entities.

In a letter to Sens. Thune and Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), the ranking member of the full committee, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of States Legislatures, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the Government Finance Officers Association complained that the bill, as it is currently drafted, “would directly impact traditionally-held state and local regulatory authority and may complicate, rather than simplify, national and other efforts to expedite infrastructure deployment by prolonging state and local processes.”

“While State and local governments share Congress’s goal of ensuring efficient, safe, and appropriate deployment of new broadband technology, this bill as currently written does not represent the best way to achieve that shared goal,” the groups added. “In major telecommunications markets throughout the nation, we are seeing how major public and private entities are collaborating to adjust rules and take other actions to facilitate the deployment of small cell networks. Currently, nearly half of all U.S. states have passed legislation specifically addressing the deployment of small cell wireless structures, and local governments in those states are now implementing new ordinances and procedures to comply with those changes and are negotiating with industry partners on these deployments.”

The groups added that the Senate bill “not only threatens and potentially preempts these ongoing efforts of states and local governments to streamline the deployment of small cell infrastructure, but also introduces an unnecessary, one-size-fits-all federal mandate, when little data now exists to determine what is most effective and what is really needed to advance the deployment of small cell networks.”

“In upending state and local efforts, the bill does nothing to ensure deployment will occur ubiquitously in all of our communities, sharing the fruits of new technology state, city, and county-wide. Rural areas and underserved communities in denser areas may still see profound coverage gaps despite the loss of state and local authority,” the letter added.

The groups also protested the “unfair and inappropriate timelines on state and local governments” proposed in the bill, saying that they are “considerably shorter than those the federal government applied to itself in the bipartisan MOBILE NOW Act. The reduced size per installation of small cell infrastructure does not directly translate to an accordingly reduced procedural burden on state and local governments. State and local governments must still review each site individually to ensure that it meets the jurisdiction’s requirements. Further, the limited extension for small jurisdictions and bulk requests of over fifty applications included in the bill does not address the resource challenges before states and localities. In some areas today, companies are already working with local governments to develop new methods to facilitate the timely review and local action on these applications, innovations that will be compromised or set aside by the bill’s one-size-fits-all directives.”

The groups also complained that the bill would limit “what state and local governments can charge for access to rights-of-way and other state and local government property to direct and actual costs” and called the restriction “an overreach by the federal government. … State laws governing what state and local governments may charge for use of their property should be respected under our system of federalism.”- Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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