On Monday, Nebraska’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard testimony on a bill that would cap the amount that cities could charge to review specific cell tower projects. According to the Unicameral Update, the measure was introduced by Sen. Curt Friesen to ensure that large wireless facilities are subject to uniform regulation. The proposal should not impact small cells.
The legislation — LB898 — would allow the state or any agency, county, city, village or other political subdivision to fix and charge an application fee for the submission, processing, and review of an eligible facilities request to co-locate a new wireless facility, site a new wireless support structure or substantially change an existing wireless support structure.
“Our goal in Nebraska is to get superior telecommunication services to all of our citizens,” Friesen said. “By providing limitations on fees for applications to improve those services, we do a service to Nebraskans.”
According to the Unicameral Update, LB898 defines an eligible facilities request as an application to modify an existing tower or wireless support structure that hosts a wireless facility in a way that does not “substantially change” the physical dimensions of the tower or the support structure. Substantial changes are defined as increasing the tower’s height beyond a certain percentage or adding an attachment that protrudes beyond a specified distance. As stated in the bill, providers could install or place a wireless facility on or adjacent to buildings, electrical transmission towers, water towers, and certain other existing structures.
The application fee will be $500 for the review of an eligible facilities request or co-location application on an existing wireless support structure. An authority can charge an applicant up to $1,000 for the review of an application to place a new tower and associated wireless facility. In addition, LB898 would require that any costs incurred for review by an outside consultant be covered in the application fee.
Mark Harms, on behalf of Viaero Wireless, testified in favor of the legislation, saying, “This bill would still allow the legitimate consulting work that is occurring in the majority of Nebraska communities while barring those that are abusing the process.”
Shelley Sahling-Zart testified in opposition to LB898 on behalf of the Lincoln Electric System, the city of Lincoln and the Nebraska Power Association. She stated that providing a uniform standard for macrocells presents different safety and siting considerations than it did for small cells and that capping fees at the proposed level would not allow cities to recover review costs.
Others testified in support or opposition to the bill, citing the vital need to update equipment and that the, “language in LB898 would not provide the city with the appropriate limits to ensure that these facilities are delivered to the public safely,” respectively. At the time of the meeting, the committee took no immediate action on the bill, according to the Unicameral Update.