Mobilitie a Utility? DeSoto, MS Says It’s “Just an Antenna Company”

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A town in Mississippi is questioning Mobilitie’s plan to erect a 120-foot tower at an intersection, and possibly two more towers at other sites. Mobilitie told DeSoto Supervisors it has a certificate from the Mississippi Public Service Commission which takes precedent over county planning and zoning procedures. The carrier has taken the same tactic in Minnesota, Virginia, Connecticut and Kansas, as Inside Towers has reported.

Mobilitie sought the PSC certificate so it can proceed with the rights of a public utility, according to Mobilitie network real estate specialist Brett Smith. Supervisor Lee Caldwell of Nesbit said: “You call yourself a ‘public utility,’ but you’re really just an antenna company that sells space to cellular service providers,” reports the DeSoto Times-Tribune.  

Smith characterizes Mobilitie’s PSC paperwork as a “certificate of need.” Caldwell and other board members said the Mississippi PSC doesn’t have the authority to regulate wireless communications.

Supervisor Mark Gardner said Mobilitie got off to “a bad start” in DeSoto by advising county officials weeks ago that with the PSC certificate, the company’s tower plan requires no local approvals and can’t be challenged. Supervisor Michael Lee of Hernando said it appears Mobilitie is trying to piggyback on the taxpayers by using public rights-of-way to place towers and such a plan could open the door to other firms claiming “public needs.”

Smith apologized for the way the proposal was introduced, and said Mobilitie is ready “to work with the county” on tower siting, according to the account. Caldwell took issue with the intersection Mobilitie has applied for, saying a tower could depress property values.

Smith responded that the county’s own study showed the need for a tower at the intersection in DeSoto to boost cell coverage. For DeSoto, Mobilitie plans to site a slim-line, galvanized steel “backhaul transport pole” that could serve as many as four major providers and the other two poles would tie in with it. Smith pledged Mobilitie will provide more information to the board.

The DeSoto board authorized the town counsel to look into the issue; he plans to have a report ready for the panel’s November 7 meeting, reports the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

October 19, 2016

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