Hempstead, NY Tells Crown Castle to Go Pound Sand

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UPDATE Hempstead, NY wants a federal court to deny Crown Castle’s request for a preliminary injunction and a restraining order, and to dismiss the complaint. Crown sought relief from a U.S. District Court for a utility pole attachment complaint late last month. 

Crown recently told the court Hempstead cancelled its contract and demanded that Crown remove 150+ small cells from its right-of-way at the towerco’s expense. 

Crown said Hempstead lacked authority to end the deal if there was no default. That’s when Crown sought court relief to prevent the removal.

Chief Deputy Hempstead Attorney Charles Kovit told the court this week the town has the right to end the contract, despite Crown calling it an “ineffective” termination. The town’s letter of non-renewal was not an illegal termination, according to Kovit. The contract allows either party to decline automatic renewal by giving 30-days notice. The attorney said Hempstead gave that notice. 

Crown also alleged that Hempstead, “imposed an illegal moratorium that effectively prohibits the provision of personal wireless services and facilities to current and future potential subscribers.” Those include Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint.

But according to Hempstead, the town has not denied the towerco the ability to offer telecommunications services. “Rather, the town remains willing and open to negotiating a new license agreement,” says Kovit in the court document. He also argued the municipality is not preventing Crown from operating in the ROW, and proposed an interim deal to permit Crown to maintain its equipment while talks continue.

Crown previously disputed this, and said negotiations had come to naught. Crown alleged Hempstead is trying to force a new agreement with better terms.

“By electing to not renew the license agreement, the town was merely exercising its right to maintain and control [Crown’s] use of the town’s right-of-way. Under Section 253 of the Telecommunications Act, municipalities retain the ability to manage their rights-of-way and obtain reasonable compensation,” Kovit told the court.

The Hempstead attorney asserts Crown failed to satisfy the high burden of proof required for a preliminary injunction and asks the court to deny that action. Because the towerco has not been completely shut out of the ROW, and “has no chance to succeed in this litigation,” Kovit asks the court to dismiss the case.  Comments? Email Us.  

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

July 19, 2019

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