Brooklyn Councilman Wants Higher Fees on Wireless Infrastructure

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Brooklyn Councilman Justin Brannan is advocating to impose heftier permit fees on the installation of cell phone transmission equipment atop private buildings—and even to assess service providers property taxes for the antennas and boxes of wiring, reported Crain’s New York Business.

According to Brannan, “It opens up an entirely new and untapped revenue stream for municipalities all across New York state…[it’s] a way we can generate some distinctly sustainable revenue by making multibillion-dollar companies pay their fair share.”

New York already has the fifth highest cell phone excises in the country, according to the Tax Foundation.

 The group estimated that more than a quarter of the state’s average customers’ bill amounts to taxes, due to an 18.6 percent levy at the state and local level, on top of the 6.6 percent federal rate. 

Brannan hopes to turn the tables on the low fees The Department of Buildings currently charges telecommunications companies. The Department requires only a base fee of $295—which covers the permit plus record-keeping work—for installations on one- to three-family homes and $390 for equipment attached to apartment complexes and commercial structures.

With the intended expansion of infrastructure in preparation for 5G, S&P Global Market Intelligence projects the number of cell towers around the city to grow to more than 800,000 by 2026. Brannan said he will try to include provisions in his bill that will prevent service providers from passing the new costs on to consumers; however, it’s unclear whether the city has the legal authority to enact such provisions.

Brannan told Crain’s, his proposal is on hold while the council’s lawyers determine the extent of the city’s authority over these specific matters.

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January 11, 2019

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