Guest Post: Yes To HB 176 To Boost Wireless Infrastructure

February 6, 2013 11:25 am

by Nathan · 21 comments

Virginia Galloway, State Coordinator for Americans for Prosperity, passed along an editorial discussing HB 176.  It’s a bill that deals with streamlining the process of growing the wireless infrastructure in Georgia:

In American politics and government we’ve come to expect a certain amount of hypocrisy, but the Georgia Municipal Association is truly charting new territory with their recent legislative action alert.

On the one hand they are strenuously advocating for a streamlined permitting process for much needed municipal infrastructure projects, while on the other hand they hyperventilate that a streamlined permitting process for wireless infrastructure will lead to the end of civilization as we know it. These positions are enough to give the average Georgian whiplash.

Right now in Georgia, a bill is that is intended to streamline and standardize aspects of cell tower permitting would encourage private industry to invest millions of dollars in our state to meet growing demand for wireless service by consumers and businesses.

New infrastructure is needed to provide faster service, better wireless performance, and new technology for Georgia consumers and businesses. Private companies are looking for certainty and the ability to put investment to work quickly for Georgians. Who wins here? Consumers, business, our economy and yes Georgia cities. The hundreds of millions of dollars at stake here fuels more jobs, greater economic activity which means more revenue for cities and the state.

The biggest stumbling block for the Georgia Municipal Association is a 150-day shot clock for permitting decisions on new cell tower builds. This is five months. It’s hard to imagine that any city could not thoroughly and carefully review a building permit in five months. Further, this is the amount of time that the Federal Communications Commission, technical experts and others have determined to be more than sufficient for this review.

The bill’s goal is not just to be a rubber stamp; but a streamlined and standardized process to help spur investment. Wireless infrastructure is already a heavily regulated process and it generally takes 18 to 24 months to build a new cell tower. There are federal, state and local regulations to comply with and any unnecessary delays keeps better and faster wireless service from Georgia consumers and businesses.

I hope Georgia’s mayors and other city elected officials will step up and support HB 176. Streamlining and standardizing infrastructure permitting is the right thing for Georgia’s cities and for Georgia’s private businesses.

 

Jackster February 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I (tried my best) to read this bill, but I can’t tell:

Is it required to have cell phone operators submit to co-location, similar to utilities on poles and right of ways? To me, if that were a requirement, then this would make a great deal of sense.

bgsmallz February 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm

While we wait for a reply from Americans Not for Prosperity…maybe some equal time to the GMA is warranted here.

I mean, who could possibly lose by merely ‘streamlining’ the ability of companies to build cell towers? <—sarcasm

What happened to local control again?

Here is the GMA's issues from their website…more than just the 150 day waiting period it seems.

A city is prohibited from:

-Evaluating an application for a new tower based on the availably of other potential locations;
-Requiring the removal of existing towers as a condition of approval of a new tower unless such existing tower is abandoned;
-Placing height limitations or restrictions on the tower;
-Imposing surety requirements, including bonds or escrow deposits on a cell tower to ensure that abandoned or unused facilities can be removed; and
-Requiring the tower to be sited on publicly owned land as an alternative to the proposed location.

bgsmallz February 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm

And just so I’m clear…the free market solution is to regulate the rent amounts that local governments can charge to wireless companies for rent? And the solution that gets rid of unecessary red tape is to force cities to go to arbitration if the cell phone company beleves the rent they are charging is higher than the regulated, fair market rate?

Hypocrisy indeed.

Max Power February 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Can we just get rid of the illusion that the Legislature isn’t bought and paid for? Maybe we should put NASCAR style sponsorship logos on the Gold Dome?

Baker February 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Every school in the country should have a cell tower and they’d be raking in money….raking might be a stretch but it would certainly help.

Kilkenny Kid February 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm

You mean that Georgia Municipal Association may be slightly over-reacting to a common sense bill? That’s never happened before.

All our state leaders say that investment & jobs are job #1 this Session. Let’s see if they listen to Chicken Little (aka GMA) or actual job creators (wireless industry) in this debate. Think it’s time to spur growth and ignore Chicken Little.

bgsmallz February 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm

First of all…beyond the fact that the language in the bill is awful and probably unconstitutionally vague (you can expand 30 linear feet beyond the existing structure without seeking approval…well is that the existing structure at the time of the bill? is that the original structure? or does that allow you to indefinitely expand the structure by 30 feet increments into infinit? The world will never know b/c the bill writer didn’t define ‘existing structure.’ #FAIL)

So telling a local government that it can not include other available locations as part of its analysis for approving a cell tower building permit is common sense? Telling a local government it cannot regulate the height of cell towers…common sense.

Here is my favorite ‘common sense’ change…

” Impose surety requirements, including bonds, escrow deposits, letters of credit, or any other type of financial surety, to ensure that abandoned or unused wireless facilities or wireless support structures can be removed, unless the local governing authority imposes similar requirements on other permits for other types of commercial development or land uses.”

Huh? So if Wireless Company A wants to build a tower on school property, the local school board can not require an escrow or a bond to guarantee removal if the company abandons the tower unless it can show that it requires a bond from other completely unrelated land uses? Can anyone explain a land use that is similar to leasing property for a cell phone tower where the nuisance of abandoned property and the costs of removing such abandoned property would be so unbelievably high to the tax payer that such a bond/surety would be required?

This bill is an affront on local control and on the free market.

Kilkenny Kid February 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Free Market? Clearly you need to brush up on that term by reading a little Milton Friedman.

bgsmallz February 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm

So Friedman would side with government regulation setting price and conditions vs. a voluntary agreement based upon market forces? Wrong answer.

This bill seeks to set many of the terms of the agreement based upon regulations rather than market…that’s the opposite of free market, my friend.

This bill is an end-around of the free market by wireless companies. There is limited supply for where they can hang their towers and rather than negotiate a voluntary exchange with municipal governments, they want the state to handcuff these local governments through price fixing and regulatory restrictions.

Kilkenny Kid February 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Don’t pretend that negotiating with a government is similar to negotiating with private entity. If you don’t like the terms offered by private land owner, you can walk away and negotiate with another freely. However, negotiating with a government who serves as both landlord and zoning authority is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. If you don’t pay their inflated rent, they can prohibit you from zoning permission on other private property. Clearly, government has an inherent conflict of interest in this situation.

bgsmallz February 6, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Those silly local governments and their desires to protect the land they’ve been entrusted by their local citizens through hard negotiations and zoning restrictions.

I think you’ve mixed up who is the fox in this story.

“They negotiate too hard for AT&T. Please, State Government, make them play fair by regulating what they can make us do and setting a price cap…all against the will of the local citizens. [Oh..and by the way, for kicks let’s try to convince folks that added regulation and price fixing is a ‘free market’ solution!]”

ECobbGOPgirl February 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I understand why GMA is fighting this. It takes away zoning control from your local city council/county commission. If AT&T wants to build a huge cell tower next to a residential neighborhood they currently do have to jump through many, many hoops. Many times they are denied at the zoning hearing because the neighbors who have to live with it in their backyard are none too pleased with the eyesore. This is NOT about free markets. It IS about cell companies tired of losing at commission/council meetings during a zoning request.

Kilkenny Kid February 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Having actually taken the time to read the bill and not just the completely inaccurate GMA talking points, the bill in no way infringes on a local government’s authority to zone cell towers. It does limit the time they can spend reviewing and limits the fees they charge to review. Nobody’s going to wake up with a cell tower in a residential area because of this bill. Propaganda doesn’t = fact.

bgsmallz February 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Let’s read the bill together! Let’s see those things that the bill ‘doesn’t say’ Wheeeee…reading is fun!

In the regulation of the placement or construction of any new wireless facility or wireless
support structure, a local governing authority shall not:
(1) Place conditions on the approval of any application beyond those specified in Code Section 36-66B-4 for any subsequent application for collocation or modification;
(2) Evaluate an application based on the availability of other potential locations for the placement of wireless support structures or wireless facilities;
(3) Require the removal of existing wireless support structures or wireless facilities as a condition to approval of an application for a new wireless facility or wireless support structure unless such existing wireless support structure or wireless facility is abandoned and owned by the applicant;
(4) Impose any requirements or restrictions with respect to objects in navigable airspace that are greater than or in conflict with the requirements or restrictions imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration; or
(5) Impose surety requirements, including bonds, escrow deposits, letters of credit, or any other type of financial surety, to ensure that abandoned or unused wireless facilities or wireless support structures can be removed, unless the local governing authority imposes similar requirements on other permits for other types of commercial development or land uses.

Does quoting the bill almost word for word qualify as propaganda these days? :)

Kilkenny Kid February 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Where in the bill does it allow for a wireless company to place a tower on residential property? Oh, maybe it’s in invisible ink? Or maybe it just doesn’t ‘t exist!

bgsmallz February 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm

What happened to the ‘innacurate GMA talking points’? Oh…those were in the bill? I seeeee….hmmmmm…..

Ok. When the responses turn to making up statements like ‘wireless companies placing towers on residential property’ as straw men, that’s when I clock out. Peace out, y’all!

Scott65 February 6, 2013 at 8:06 pm

There is a big picture not being seen. Wireless is vastly inferior to fiber. Wireless is not a competitive market (if you disagree…look at your bill…contract terms….not indicative of a competitive market). This is just about AT&T and Verizon cutting out the local middle men to build their towers where they want to the rest of us be damned…just like Comcast did with local franchises in favor of state ones (got a complaint about your cable? Talk to the hand). AstroTurf think tanks and associations are most prevalent in telecom (because they are wildly successful) They always have names that make you feel they are consumer oriented (they’re not). I recall these groups last year tried to get Chip Rogers to sneak one of their bills through…failed. The will keep trying till they gut any controls/regulation. Your phone/internet should operate on the same rules as a landline phone. That they dont means we all lose

David Staples February 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

“Wireless is vastly inferior to fiber.”

Yeah, but the fiber just keeps getting kinked as I’m driving down the road. And then if I drive too far, I keep having to fuse extensions to it so I can retain connectivity. Apple & Orange.

Having previously worked for a wireless carrier, I’ve seen a number of maps of where cell sites are located and mapping out what we called KTAs – Known Trouble Areas. There’s a lot that goes into where to site a cell tower in regards to how the RF signal is going to be directed, blocked by objects and bounced off of others. There’s a reason the job title is something along the lines of RF Engineer – it’s not just a random placement of towers and hoping for the best.

Cell sites in the 800 MHz band have a typical range of 3 to 5 miles. Cell sites in the PCS spectrum (1850 – 1990 MHz) typically have a range of around 1.8 to 3 miles. (Both of these ranges are outdoor coverage, flexible, and highly dependent upon terrain and other factors such as tall buildings. Indoor coverage is highly dependent upon the building itself.) So while yes, you may have a few different parcels where you could put the cell site, it’s not like you can say “let’s just put that site a mile across town at the high school so we can get the revenue from a leasing agreement” without impacting the level of service that the wireless carrier can provide. I understand not everyone wants a cell tower in their backyard. I’ve talked to a number of people with that opinion. But those same people turn around and complain if they don’t have cell service in their basement. You just can’t please everyone.

Scott65 February 7, 2013 at 11:19 am

You missed the point. Its not telling them where they have to build a tower…its telling them where they can NOT build a tower. Are we to let wireless carriers have powers of eminent domain that they can seize property just because its the primo spot…I dont think so. As for fiber, we need to be finding ways to get it run, but the state wants to limit local governments from running it…look what they did in NC. Now they have higher rates and the lowest adoption of BB in the country tied with MS…I just dont think we should go there on either point, but I do realize now the fiber comment was a bit off topic.

bgsmallz February 8, 2013 at 9:39 am

David-

I’m all for streamlining the process…the process should be as uniform as possible considering you have roughly 600 local jurisdictions in this state. I think you and Joseph, below, makes some excellent points. My issue is the substantive items inserted in this bill that are not procedural that would limit the ability of local governments to serve their citizens.

For example, how does eliminating the ability to require a bond/escrow in order to insure removal of abandoned towers impact the wireless carrier’s ability to provide service?

If someone has an issue that they can’t get signal in their basement and it’s because their local government will not permit a cell tower because of the height of the proposed tower, etc., in absence of some overarching public safety need/state issue that I’m missing, I think the better option and the conservative solution is for that citizen to be able to petition her local reps about the matter.

Joseph February 6, 2013 at 11:58 pm

As someone who deals with radio towers AND has the great pleasure of sitting on the planning commission in Columbus, let me say this regarding tower-site’ing.

The wireless industry (cell, radio, tv, two-way) is a heavily regulated industry from the federal level. When designing a radio station, cell phone tower, etc – the precise location of a transmit / receive site is literally a function of math and high-science they teach at Auburn (called Engineering). It is truly a matter of plugging into a formula and getting out a specific location (or very confined area) for the tower site to go. There are no choices, it literally (no seriously) would take an act of Congress to change these “formulas” to design these facilities – not to mention change the laws of Physics (something I’m sure Congress thinks they could do, too).

From the planning side, of course no one wants to have a tower in their back yard and we don’t want to lose our “local control” over County development.

I however do support the idea of streamlined policies and procedures for use around the State. Even if it was as “simple” as setting a time line for review – that would be the least that could be done to help developers have a timeframe for go/no go – not some nebulous “we’re still studying it” – which I’ve seen come out of our Planning Department before (very frustrating).

It’s very frustrating from an operator side as you have the Federal Government in the FCC and FAA saying “you’re tower MUST go here” because of physical technical requirements while State/County/City Governments give opposite instructions that don’t usually follow logic or technical arguments.

Now I feel like that guy from Office Space… “I deal with Customers so the Engineers don’t have to! I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What is wrong with you people!?”

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