Three county board members and seven mayors in suburban Illinois are leading the charge in opposing SB1451, known as the Small Cell Wireless Bill, reported Government Technology.
If passed, SB1451 would create the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, taking control away from local governments, ensuring they could not “prohibit, regulate or charge for the installation, mounting, maintaining, modifying, operating, or replacement of small wireless facilities on or adjacent to a wireless support structure or utility pole.”
- Provides that an authority (a unit of local government with control over rights-of-way) may not prohibit, regulate, or charge for the co-location of small wireless facilities (the installation, mounting, maintaining, modifying, operating, or replacement of small wireless facilities on or adjacent to a wireless support structure or utility pole).
- Provides that small wireless facilities shall be classified as permitted uses and not subject to zoning review and approval under specified circumstances.
- Provides requirements for applications, fees, application review, and issuance of permits for co-location of small wireless facilities.
- Provides that an authority may not require applications for routine maintenance or replacement of wireless facilities with wireless facilities that are substantially similar, of the same size, or smaller.
- Requires authorities to allow the co-location of small wireless facilities on authority utility poles under specified circumstances.
- Prohibits authorities from regulating the design, engineering, construction, installation, or operation of any small wireless facility in specified circumstances.
- Provides that a circuit court has jurisdiction to resolve all disputes arising under the Act.
- Prohibits an authority from requiring a wireless provider to indemnify the authority or its officers or employees and from naming the authority on a wireless provider’s insurance policy. Limits home rule powers. Amends the Counties Code making conforming changes.
Local officials fear the bill will take away control of small cell regulation both in the rights-of-way and on existing municipal light and power poles; plus concerns mount over the number of small cells that could potentially be installed.
Aurora, IL Mayor Richard Irvin stated, “In essence, it allows private companies to have a monopoly over public infrastructure.” Naperville, IL Mayor Steve Chirico noted that small cells are necessary for the latest 5G technology, but illustrated the importance of planning. “We all want it, but let’s do it right,” Chirico said. “Let’s be thoughtful about it. We don’t get a second chance at this.”
Irvin also noted that the law establishes an artificially low fee for local governments to recover costs incurred using public facilities.
Additionally, officials are concerned about the aesthetic impact too many small cells can have on a community. Chirico noted that Naperville has spent “millions of dollars” to put electric wires underground in attempts to make neighborhoods more scenic. Officials noted that telecoms have the ability to build 5G networks with more centralized control, eliminating the need for individual power installations on each pole, but the companies do not want to spend that money right now.
Local officials are urging the Illinois Senate to negotiate the bill, so it is more fair to local communities. SB1451 is in hearings now before the House Public Utilities Committee.
November 9, 2017