As telecoms in Georgia are finding out, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 gives them the right to install cell towers, but does not allow them to ignore local siting rules. Sandy Springs is the latest town to consider joining a lawsuit against the FCC, according to ReporterNewspapers.net.
The town does not dispute Verizon’s right to install telecommunications poles and equipment, but it contends that consideration for local laws and voices was violated.
Verizon rep Matt Hartley did acknowledge that there have been communication issues. “We dropped the ball on that,” he said at a recent town meeting. “We did not follow what we had discussed with the city permitting office as far as notifications for residents.”
Residents have complained that poles have popped up all over their neighborhoods with no prior notice. Mayor Rusty Paul has expressed his dissatisfaction with the telecoms, claiming that they’ve overstepped their authority. “They went to the legislature and then they went to the Federal Telecommunications [sic] Commission to be able to bypass local governments because they see us as a problem,” Paul said.
“When we joined the FCC fight, we said our citizens want to protect what their streets and sidewalks look like,” said Brookhaven city attorney Christopher Balch. “The FCC says we don’t have that power anymore.” The city of Brookhaven paid a $5,000 fee when it signed on to the lawsuit. “The primary reason we joined is because we had a number of complaints from citizens about small cells in front of their homes and messing up their viewshed,” Balch said.
When placing new equipment, all the Georgia towns noted that they wanted prior notification and the payment of any applicable fees before construction can begin. The Sandy Springs City Council has attempted to incentivize the telecoms to use existing poles whenever possible. Co-location has a modest $100 fee. However, replacement poles will cost $500 and new poles have a $1,000 fee.