Illinois Governor Signs Small Cell Siting Bill

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill Thursday to standardize and streamline small cell regulation. Supporters say it will pave the way for 5G deployment and other wireless technology.

“As technology continues to advance and smartphone data use continues to increase, it’s important that we have the infrastructure in place to support those advancements,” said State Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), who sponsored the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act. Senate Bill 1451 ensures local governments retain their role and authority in the permitting process of telecom equipment, by allowing them to exercise their zoning, land use, planning and permitting authorities within their boundaries, with respect to wireless infrastructure and utility poles, according to the governor’s announcement.

Illinois Retail Merchants Association President Bob Karr was enthusiastic, saying: “Illinois retailers need next generation telecommunications infrastructure to provide the customized offerings and services our customers expect.” So was CTIA, saying: “The legislation will lay the groundwork for the next generation of wireless and ensure the residents of Illinois are ready to receive the benefits of 5G.”

However the Associated Press reports several local municipalities oppose the measure, calling it a handout to big business that will lead to higher taxes for residents. Under the new law, utilities can charge telecoms $650 per application to install a single small cell on an existing utility pole and $1,000 to install a new pole for small cells, reports StateScoop. The measure caps annual rates that many local governments can charge telecoms annually for small cells on public utility poles at $200 per year. According to the text, beyond that, jurisdictions “may not prohibit, regulate, or charge for the co-location of small wireless facilities.”

The law applies to municipalities with a population below one million, exempting Chicago.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langenfelder told Capitol Fax that currently, wireless companies have agreements with local governments for small cell installations or they can pay for their own cell tower infrastructure. He calls the bill “an end around” to create greater profits for wireless companies “on the backs of municipalities and taxpayers.”  

April 16, 2018         

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