Whitefish Swimming Upstream on FCC Regulations


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Resident of rural Montana like their vistas just the way they are now, free of visually distracting cell tower infrastructure. In an effort to be proactive in maintaining the look of their town, the city of Whitefish is challenging the FCC’s authority over the aesthetics of installing broadband components, reports GovTech.com.

Adding small cell boxes around town in anticipation of 5G connectivity might be less obtrusive than building a full fledged cell tower, but even that compromise does not satisfy many residents. “Why are we concerned?” asked Montana attorney Angela Jacobs. “Because they’re ugly and we’re concerned about the potential they have to be extremely unsightly especially in our downtown.” The National League of Cities agreed noting, “This can result in clusters of small cells that are visually unappealing and detract from the aesthetic of the community.”

A city ordinance has been drafted that would limit the size of the wireless equipment.  Additions of new small cell boxes would be encouraged to use existing structures, and would need to match historic designs where applicable. Since small cell designs do not have the reach of a large tower, multiple units would be needed. The ordinance is designed to comply with FCC rulings but still maintain the character of the town the new equipment will occupy.

While local jurisdictions can weigh in on the appearance of cell tower structures in their communities, they cannot reject them or bargain on the costs, another point that Jacobs points out with frustration. “They have gutted our ability to negotiate,” Jacobs said, reported GovTech.com.  

The lawsuit is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Comments? Email Us.

April 16, 2019

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