$20 Fees for Small Cells Have Senate Bill Under Scrutiny


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A Michigan House committee just advanced Senate Bill 637, which aims to establish the Small Wireless Communications Facilities Deployment Act and create guidelines for telecommunications companies to use infrastructure in public rights-of-way.

Crain’s Detroit Business, reported there are municipal leaders who oppose SB 637 because it would limit counties, cities, and townships to charging telecom companies $20 annually for the use of each publicly-owned utility pole, which would increase by 10 percent every five years. Additionally, the bill will allow counties to charge cell phone providers $125 annually for installing cellular antennas on their own poles located in the public ROW, reported Crain’s Detroit Business.

“Ultimately, this legislation equates to a massive giveaway of taxpayer-funded infrastructure to multi-billion dollar companies for pennies on the dollars and is not in the best interest of those we represent,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, wrote in a letter to the House Energy Policy Committee.

Regarding preparation for 5G and the small cell infrastructure itself, Phil Bertolini, chief information officer, and deputy county executive for Oakland County noted, “We do want the technology. We just want the costs recouped.”   

The $20 rate is coming under scrutiny, as the fee won’t cover the cost of county employees or electricians to supervise the installation of the wireless antennas, according to Dennis Kolar, managing director of the Oakland County Road Commission. “I think it’s reasonable to say there’s something wrong with that rate,” Kolar said. “This is fraught with additional costs for local agencies — we’ll be subsidizing billion-dollar companies with public dollars.”

Oakland County is in the middle of negotiating a contract with Sprint Corp. to install 250 short-distance cellular antennas and pay the county $250,000 annually for use of publicly owned light poles and infrastructure, Kolar said.

Wayne County is negotiating a contract with Naperville, IL-based Neo Network Development Inc. for a, “commercially reasonable rate near $1,500 annually for each small cell installation,” according to Evans and Patterson’s letter. “Passage of this legislation will be taking revenue the counties are set to receive through this contract and redistributing it to corporations already poised to profit [from] this new technology,” Evans and Patterson wrote.  

The House Energy Policy Committee voted 15-4 to send the legislation to the House floor, with some representatives saying the need for technology for cellular customers outweighs the costs municipalities may incur, reported Crain’s Detroit Business.

“My residents are begging for this,” said state Rep. Beau LaFave. “We need this technology across the state of Michigan. And it’s going to be very difficult for companies to invest in the future if every single county and township has wildly different fees.”

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October 8, 2018