By: Andrew Rau
Municipalities across Pennsylvania are quickly realizing that the early stages of the cell tower and telecommunications era are giving way to a new regulatory and land use world—one of micro towers, fiber lines and new technology.
There are four areas of focus for municipalities in staying on top of the changing legal landscape:
- Compliance with the FCC’s 2009 Shot Clock Order. This FCC ruling set new procedural rules and accelerated the timing and action standards for applications. There is related guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent City of Arlington, Texas et al. v. FCC case.
- Compliance with Section 6409 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. This provision was deep inside a congressional act of February of 2012. The federal law states that “a state or local government may not deny, and shall approve, any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.” The FCC is interpreting this mandate rather broadly in favor of providers. See: ; http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2013/db0128/DA-12-2047A1.pdf
- Compliance with the Pennsylvania Wireless Broadband Collocation Act. This statute provides for similar streamlining under Pennsylvania law as to the collocation process.
- DAS and New Technology. Municipalities will want to consider their unique needs and approaches to this technology in compliance with federal and state law. The upside to this technology is that in many cases the large and controversial tower systems can be avoided, with minor infrastructure installed on existing utility poles. However, overreach by providers and installation of new poles can lead to the unfavorable results. Ordinances need to be reviewed in this context. PUC utility status in Pennsylvania for some of these DA S providers needs to be considered as well. All of this comes in the context of the FCC actively supporting the rollout of these systems. See: http://www.fcc.gov/document/genachowski-announces-broadband-acceleration-initiative-actions
Please contact Andrew Rau if you have any questions regarding the above or need legal assistance in guiding your municipality in this area of the law. In particular, our firm can analyze, review and propose amendments to any individual municipal ordinance in order to address the above areas of concern.