Small Cell Placement Rubs “Salt” In Residents’ Wounds

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In 2018, the Utah Legislature passed SB189, known as the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, which allows wireless companies to place 5G structures in the public right-of-way. Sen. Curtis Bramble, who sponsored the bill, said the law intended to encourage wireless companies to put 5G transmitters on existing structures, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.

Since small cells began to pop up in May 2019, many residents, including Dorothea “Doro” Rosenberger, who lives in a home on the historic registry, are shocked that telecoms can install 5G equipment without notice. “I question the technology if that’s what we signed up for as a community,” Rosenberger told the Tribune. She also asked why transmitters can’t be placed somewhere more “discreet.”

According to city engineer Matthew Cassel, Salt Lake’s plan is to install small cells on existing public structures like power poles, street lights, and bus stops. “We don’t have a lot of control over what’s going in. Our guidelines specify some criteria we hoped would be followed, but [that’s] not necessarily so,” he said. “The city’s preference is that small cells are mounted on existing poles, so they blend in with what’s already there.”

Since the onset of installation, telecoms have installed 167 small cells throughout the city, with another 50 currently permitted and under construction and 341 with preliminary plans, reported The Tribune. Cassel said that even though the city prefers that small cells be put on existing structures, that’s not always the case. 

“It’s cheaper for them [telecoms] to put up their own pole because they don’t have to pay rent on poles that are existing,” he said. “If they put it on a Rocky Mountain Power pole, Rocky Mountain Power would charge them a fee. If they put it on a city post, we would charge a fee.” According to Cassel, the city could only charge $50 annually per pole under state code. 

“We’d love to have more teeth in [this] matter, but we simply don’t,” Cassel added. “I think the biggest rub people have is they’re not even being told when these permits are approved.”

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