Tiny Town Rejects Verizon Small Cells and Wins in Court

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When Crown Castle Corp., on behalf of Verizon Communications, proposed installing dozens of 5G small cells along the streets in Doylestown (PA) borough, residents replied with a resounding “no.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that residents opposed the placement of the “boxy” equipment on telephone and utility poles due to aesthetic reasons and also raised concerns over potential health issues. Doylestown officials spent $150,000, held ten public hearings, and fought the small cell proposal in state and federal courts for more than a year, defending their right for a say regarding small cell placement.

“We didn’t feel they had the right to come and do what they want,” said Jack O’Brien, council president.

When Doylestown settled the case with Verizon in July, the town won the right to reduce the number of small cells (capped at 34) as well as camouflage and relocate some of them, reported the Inquirer. It also won a five percent share of the revenues for the services Verizon or other companies sell through Crown Castle and $750 a year for others. 

Now, Pennsylvania lawmakers are proposing a bill, sponsored by Rep. Frank Farry (R., Langhorne), that would largely strip municipalities of zoning oversight when telecom companies seek permits for small cells on utility poles and traffic lights, plus lower fees for small cell permitting.  

Rep. Robert W. Godshall (R., Hatfield), the chair of the consumer affairs committee, noted that municipal officials need to get in line with new technology. Wireless carriers can’t easily add small cells in a state with more than 2,500 municipalities, each with its own zoning rules and procedures, Godshall said. There had to be legislation to make it easier for the carriers, he added.

The Inquirer reported the small cells won’t be installed in Doylestown for several months, while Crown Castle goes through a permitting process.  

August 28, 2018     

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