June 2, 2017–The California Senate voted 32-1 yesterday to pass a bill that establishes a statewide framework for streamlining the permitting process for small cell wireless facilities. In response to the bill’s advancement, the League of California Cities said, “Despite the measure being opposed by over 125 cities, counties, and various organizations, and aside from several questions and congratulatory statements, not a single member spoke in opposition to the legislation.” According to the league, the bill “strips public input, limits full discretionary review, and removes the ability for cities/counties to negotiate leases for the installation of ‘small cell’ technology on public property.”
“While the wireless industry promises SB 649 will allow it to rapidly deploy 5G technology throughout the state to create thousands of jobs while maintaining local discretion, it is clear from the bill language that the intent is elsewhere,” the league said. “The bill does not contain a requirement that the technology meet 5G or any standard. It does not require the wireless industry to build their networks in unserved or underserved communities. Instead of jobs, communities will lose their ability to control for blight. This in fact makes it tougher for cities to attract business because cities lose full discretion. If SB 649 becomes law, there will not be anyone left to hold the wireless industry accountable to ensure they even maintain their equipment or provide any negotiated public benefit.”
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Ben Hueso (D.), would extend to small-cell facilities the existing prohibition for a city or county to condition permitting approval of wireless telecommunications facilities on an escrow deposit to cover facilities removal, limits on facility locations to sites “owned by particular parties within the jurisdiction of the city or county,” or on unreasonable limits on the duration of a permit.
Specifically, the bill “requires an administrative permit in lieu of a discretionary permit, limits fees to between $100 and $850 for small-cell installations in the utility right-of-way, ensures access to most vertical infrastructure in the utility right-of-way and also within a commercial or industrial zone. This bill also requires permits for wireless telecommunications facilities would be automatically renewed for equivalent durations.” According to the bill’s author, “SB 649 recognizes the public-policy benefit and exploding consumer demand for greater, faster access to next-generation wireless networks — and establishes a reliable and standardized process for siting the physical infrastructure necessary to meet that demand. For California to remain technologically competitive and to ensure the benefits of innovation are reaching every community, we must do all we can — as fast as we can — to make next-generation 5G wireless networks a reality. In fact, recent studies have shown that widespread 5G investment in California will generate billions in economic growth and billions more in savings from wireless-enabled smart community solutions — lowered energy use, reduced traffic and fuel costs, and improved public safety applications. But building the wireless network of tomorrow requires the rapid deployment of small cell structures.” —Carrie DeLeon, firstname.lastname@example.org