The California Assembly late yesterday voted 22-10 to approve Senate amendments to a bill that proposes to establish a statewide framework for streamlining the permit siting process of small cell wireless facilities. Sen. Ben Hueso (D., District 40), the author of SB 649, said the bill “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,” he said. “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.”
The bill would authorize a city or county to charge three types of fees: “an annual charge for each small cell attached to city or county vertical infrastructure, an annual attachment rate, or a one-time reimbursement fee.” The bill would require the city or county to comply with notice and hearing requirements before imposing the annual attachment rate and calls for a proceeding to challenge a fee imposed under the provisions of the bill to be commenced within 120 days of the effective date of the ordinance or resolution.
The bill also “limits the creation or erection of any unreasonable requirement for access to the public rights-of-way by communications providers, including excessive delays in negotiations and approvals for communications facilities.”
Recent changes to the bill would require each wireless service provider, on or before July 1, 2019, and again on or before Dec. 31, 2020, to submit a report specifying the number of and geographical location by ZIP code of the small cells that became operational within the state during the 18 months prior to each report.
Other recent amendments to the bill find that wireless service providers should deploy small cells to areas based on demand for services “regardless of the income characteristics of the areas” and that the bill would complement efforts to close the digital divide by “creating a framework that will incentivize private industry to invest or accelerate investment in the deployment of small cells, and that this act will complement current state and federal government efforts to subsidize the deployment of broadband,” including the FCC’s Mobility Fund II program, the Connect America Fund, and the California Advanced Services Fund.
The Wireless Infrastructure Association issued a statement praising passage of the bill and calling on Gov. Jerry Brown (D.) to sign the bill.
“WIA applauds California lawmakers for working together to pass this important piece of legislation, which streamlines how wireless infrastructure is deployed in communities across the state. Creating a fair business environment – with common definitions and a facilitated process to utilize existing structures – is crucial to delivering access to mobile broadband to every resident,” said Jonathan Adelstein, WIA’s president and chief executive officer.
He added, “Streamlined permitting processes and greater access to public rights of way will spur the widespread deployment of the wireless infrastructure needed to improve network capacity in the near term while setting the stage for the 5G networks of tomorrow. Reducing barriers to deploying wireless infrastructure will help ensure that California and the U.S. remain global leaders when it comes to mobile network innovation and deployment.”
But the bill has been highly contested by the League of California Cities, which says it would “undermine local control and transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from key government services to the bottom line of the world’s largest wireless companies.” Local officials specifically oppose the reduced regulatory and fee structures set forth in the bill, which they say would “dramatically cut the fees companies must pay to cities for use of public property and allow them to place equipment wherever they want on public assets.”- Carrie DeLeon, firstname.lastname@example.org