Opposition Mounts on California’s “Small Cell” Bill

Local political and community leaders from across Los Angeles County staunchly opposed SB 649 this week during a press conference, reported the Daily Breeze. SB 649 aims to streamline bureaucratic processes for telecom companies while simultaneously barring local governments from imposing conditions — aesthetic or otherwise — on small cells. Additionally, concerns over economic factors are a reality, as the bill proposes to slash fees a city can collect from a provider by imposing an annual cap of $250.

According to Long Beach Councilman Al Austin, “SB 649 would nearly eliminate our city’s and every other local government’s abilities to manage the way in which telecommunications equipment is deployed in our neighborhoods and around businesses just so the telecommunications industry can have their equipment permitted more rapidly throughout California.” 

Other opponents of the bill include the League of California Cities, the American Public Works Association, Downtown Long Beach Alliance, and the Belmont Heights Community Association. Additionally, over 200 cities and dozens of counties have joined the opposition, reported the Daily Breeze.

On the flip side, there are several business groups and chambers of commerce across the state supporting the proposed law. According to bill author Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, the legislation is meant to address the need for faster, more reliable cellular networks, as more Californians use wireless data.

But localities, who now have control over placement of wireless infrastructure, will have to give way to carriers and telecos regarding the placement of small cells on any utility poles, streetlights, traffic signals or public buildings, except for those in historic districts and coastal zones, if the measure passes. According to the bill, the size of an antenna will be capped at six cubic feet, but other equipment, such as generators, could be as large as 35 cubic feet; and towers will have a propagation range of 30 to 6,500 feet.

Should the legislation be adopted, industry experts estimate 30,000 to 50,000 of these networks could be rolled out in the next few years, leading to “uncontrolled, rapid deployment,” according to cities and residents. Today is the deadline to pass the legislation in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If the bill reaches the Assembly floor, it will need a majority vote to move forward.

September 1, 2017                

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