Historic PA Town Defends Itself Against “The Attack of the Small Cells”

In a town that prides itself on its lack of technology, the Lancaster City Council rushed through zoning changes to prevent Mobilitie LLC from installing 70 small cells in the area’s historic downtown, reported Government Technology.  Horses and buggies are frequent sightings along Lancaster roads as it is home to one of the largest Amish and Mennonite communities in the U.S.. (Harrison Ford’s John Book hid from the bad guys in Lancaster in the 1985 movie “Witness”.)

“The city would look God-awful with these towers all over,” said Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city’s director of public works.

As part of the zoning changes, many streets are now off-limits to the new poles that officials say could be much taller than existing ones. Additionally, the Public Utility Commission stripped Mobilitie and other distributed-antenna [DAS] companies of utility status, meaning that they would not get any more “certificates of public convenience” in Pennsylvania.  

One telecom lawyer referred to the preparation for 5G as “the attack of the small cells,” and many small cells have already been installed throughout the commonwealth. State regulators, responding to local concerns, have been less accommodating to the DAS companies, reported Government Technology.

Mobilitie spokesman Tim Klein told Government Technology, the company has had “productive, collaborative discussions” to comply with Lancaster’s zoning regulations after the pushback. Mobilitie now has proposed adding the antennas to existing utility poles or other infrastructure so that the “placement will be virtually unnoticeable,” he said.

Katzenmoyer retorted: “That’s news to us.” The last proposal Lancaster received in January from Mobilitie outlined installing 27 poles throughout the historic district, instead of 70 to 80 poles, but it still did not conform to the city’s new zoning rules, she said.

September 5, 2018

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