D.C. Is Developing Small Cell Siting Guidelines


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The District of Columbia is working on small cell siting and design guidelines. It has a master agreement with five providers — AT&T, Verizon, Extenet, Mobilitie and Crown Castle — to install the wireless infrastructure, reports HillRag.

The goal is to provide D.C. residents with better wireless service. 

“In particular, the benefit of improved cell phone service means when you pick up your phone to make a call, you’re not going to have as many dropped calls,” said Crown Castle Government Relations Manager Carly Didden. A total of 2,500 units could be installed by the five companies throughout the city. Crown Castle wants to install 850 low-powered antennas connected by fiber optic cables, according to the account.

To develop installation guidelines, the District government worked with DDOT, the Office of Planning, the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission. In a letter to DDOT about the proposed guidelines, Capitol Hill Restoration Society President Elizabeth Nelson expressed concern, noting, “The equipment is not small.” 

Some local Commissioners agreed, asking DDOT for more restrictions. Reviewing the draft, they noted the number of antennas per block is limited based on block size, but the largest blocks could still have up to 12 units each. The draft guidelines state that stand-alone poles should not be built if the small cells can be mounted on existing poles. The height of both poles and antennas cannot exceed 31 feet, or 10 percent higher than existing poles, whichever is greater.

A spokesperson for Crown Castle said that the company, “understands that each community has its own character,” and would design installations to preserve the aesthetics of distinct communities. At the city meeting, Didden said cabinets could be wrapped in decorative art, nestled near furniture or potted plants, or otherwise disguised.

The public record for an initial hearing on the draft guidelines closed October 29, but DDOT Public Space Committee will continue to take comments emailed to: [email protected]. There is no expected date for guidelines to be finalized, and installation cannot begin until after guidelines are finalized and all public space applications and permits are approved, according to HillRag.  Comments? Email us.

December 10, 2018

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