Property Rights At the Core of State Bill 596

UPDATE Florida lawmakers are busy tweaking State Senate Bill 596 on the placement of 5G infrastructure, which would limit state and local control over public rights-of-way as the installation of equipment begins, reported The Palm Beach Post.  A companion bill has been submitted recently with an active date of July 1, 2017.

Florida House Bill 687 states:

“Authorizes DOT & certain local governmental entities to prescribe & enforce rules re: placing & maintaining communications services lines/wireless facilities; prohibits authority regulation of facility collocation; authorizes authority to require registration process & permit fees; requires authority to process applications; prohibits authority from requiring approval/fees for maintenance/placement of facilities; provides requirements for collocation on authority utility poles; requires authority to waive certain application & placement requirements; prohibits authority from adopting/enforcing certain regulations & imposing certain fees; authorizes wireless infrastructure provider to apply to place utility poles; authorizes authority to enforce certain local codes/rules/regulations under certain circumstances.”  

 

Riviera Beach Councilwoman Dawn Pardo calls the bill “a ticket for multi-billion-dollar wireless communication companies to come into a city and do as they please in city right-of-ways.”

If passed, the bill would create the Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act and prohibit the Florida Department of Transportation and local governmental entities from prohibiting, regulating, or charging for co-location of small wireless facilities in public rights-of-way. The current bill only covers small cells, but applications for 120-foot poles have already been submitted, according to the Palm Beach Post.   

Local municipalities see the act as one-sided, favoring the telecom companies and preventing them or residents from having a say in where equipment is installed. Under the proposal, if a local government doesn’t approve or deny a request within 60 days, it’s automatically approved. Plus, the maximum fee the city can charge telecom companies for use of each right-of-way is $15. Additionally, a report by the Florida Association of County Attorneys Cell Tower Right-of-Way Task Force sites that The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Florida statutes do not support a right of telecommunication firms to force local government to allow placement of cellular communication facilities in the local government’s own right-of-way.

A dozen officials from across Florida have opposed the legislation before the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy and Public Utilities. “This bill is a one-way street,” said Florida Counties Association Deputy Director of Public Policy Eric Poole. “It says the telecommunications industry can come into any county and city and require us to give them a permit to co-locate one of their small cell packages on any of our utility poles, light posts, signs or traffic arm signals. We can’t tell them no,” he told the Palm Beach Post.

According to the telecom industry, upgrades are needed by 2020, to usher in 5G, and some companies have already begun work in Riviera Beach. Prior to regulations being passed, Crown Castle installed four poles and Mobilitie had plans to install several 120-foot structures, but the city ordinance doesn’t allow poles over 35-feet.

Both bills have passed their first round in their respective House and Senate committees.

July 11, 2017      

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