City and State Battle Over Small Cells and Associated Costs

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The Elmhurst City Council is urging Gov. Bruce Rauner to veto The Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act (Illinois Senate Bill 1451). If passed, the bill allows wireless providers to place telecommunications equipment with an antenna and related equipment on existing or new utility poles, according to My Suburban Life.

One main issue with the new bill, according to the City Council, is that it controls total application fees. It states fees cannot be more than either the amount charged by the municipality for a building permit for any similar commercial construction, activity or land use development, or $350 for each small wireless facility in the application, reported My Suburban Life.

According to Mayor Steve Morley, “There seems to be a tug-of-war. Sometimes there is a need, in my opinion, for maybe blanket statewide regulation…But this first crack at it goes beyond the pale in my opinion.”

Morley noted that Elmhurst currently negotiates with carriers on where to place receivers in the city and how much Elmhurst can bill the telcos. For example, the City Council recently approved agreements with New Cingular Wireless PCS which include a $5,000 application fee per agreement, plus a $250 monthly lease, with a three percent annual increase in the license fee.

Regarding the proposed bill, “This is a great example of overreach into our community,” Morley said.  Conversely, Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, who supports the bill noted, “The public right-of-way is the property of the public. It’s not meant to be a moneymaker for a municipality. It’s held in trust for the public.”

Breen wants to ensure that the most advanced wireless technology is available to residents and businesses in Illinois. “If we don’t keep pace with the other states in terms of our wireless infrastructure, we will fall behind and continue to fall behind in growing good tech jobs and any job in any industry that requires strong wireless backup,” Breen said.

Published December 15, 2017

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