Maryland’s Cities vs. States Battle a Microcosm For U.S.

Lobbying efforts by wireless companies to ease regulations on the installation of 5G equipment is causing friction between local and state leaders. According to The Washington Post, wireless carriers expect to install 300,000 small cell sites across the country, and so far this year, 18 states have proposed zoning law preemptions; since 2016, 13 states have adopted such legislation. Though wireless industry leaders have explained that the demand for better internet service necessitates removing barriers to cell sites’ installation, some local leaders, like Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer, see the state proposals as “a giveaway to the industry.” Riemer told The Washington Post, “We want to see the future of wireless infrastructure happen, but we want a say in how that happens.”

Many residents also feel pulled in two directions, hungry for faster downloads and streaming, but hesitant about the potential impacts of small cell sites. North Potomac, MD resident Andy Spivak explained this dilemma to The Washington Post, “There’s no way we’re going to stop this technology from being deployed — it’s just the way of the world. But can they try to make them aesthetically pleasing or hide them so I don’t have to drive around my neighborhood and see ugly cell towers?” CTIA advised that health experts have found “no known health risk” from cell equipment, but health concerns are frequently at the forefront of residents’ minds when considering 5G small cell deployment.  

The rollout of 5G technology is critical to the “smart future,” which will welcome self-driving vehicles, appliances controlled by web apps, and networked “smart cities.” Charles McKee, vice president of government affairs for Sprint, balanced his empathy for the cities’ trepidation with the pressure of helping 5G expand, telling The Washington Post, “We want to work with them. Our goal here is not to force them to do things, but we need to deploy this, and we need to deploy it fast.”

Current local regulations are based on the construction of much larger towers, causing industry leaders to argue for the streamlining of the approval process for 5G small cell construction, according to The Washington Post. Jim Sledge, a resident of Germantown, MD illustrated his concerns over such consolidation. “They’ll streamline the process so you’ll come home and see someone digging a hole in your front yard to put in a new pole with 300 pounds of antennas on top of it,” Sledge said: “At that point, it’s a little too late.”

March 20, 2018      

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