Bill Would Severely Limit Local Authority to Manage Small Cell Technology in Public Right of Way

Minnesota is one of several states that are part of a nationwide push to limit cities’ power to have a say on where small cell wireless technology is installed and at what cost, among other limitations.
(Published Feb 6, 2017)

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Legislation introduced in both the House and Senate would restrict local authority to regulate companies seeking to install small cell wireless technology in public rights of way. The bill is being pushed by wireless carriers.

The bill, HF 739 (Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska) and SF 561 (Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound), would allow equipment to be placed on utility poles and “any other property a local government unit has an interest in and has made available for commercial purposes.” Additionally, it prevents cities from negotiating zoning, rates, permit timelines, and maintenance as it relates to the installation of emerging wireless infrastructure.

Companies lobbying in several states
Wireless companies, including AT&T and Verizon, are lobbying for similar legislation state by state as they and other carriers prepare to install infrastructure to create a new 5G cellular network. Standards and a timeline for 5G implementation have not been set.

“Small cell facilities” is a broad term for the types of cell sites that support antennas plus other equipment to add data capacity. Small cell equipment and distributed antenna systems (DAS) transmit wireless signals to and from a defined area. They need to be powered continuously and require fiber backhaul.

The bill would allow for wireless equipment up to 28 cubic feet in size in the public right of way. Right now, there are cities that have negotiated agreements with providers, mainly in dense urban developments.

The House bill was referred to the Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee. In the Senate, the bill’s first stop will be in the Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee.

House co-sponsors include Reps. Pat Garofalo (R- Farmington), Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls), Paul Thissen (D-Minneapolis), Linda Slocum (D-Richfield), Nolan West (R-Blaine), Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove), and Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville). Senate co-authors include Sens. David Senjem (R-Rochester), John Hoffman (D-Champlin), Dan Sparks (D-Austin), and Dan Hall (R-Burnsville).

Action requested
The League is asking members to contact their legislators to communicate objections to this legislation, and ensure that local governments continue to have authority to exercise control over this core function of government to manage public assets.

Here are supplemental documents to aid you and your legislators:

Additional resource
The League also has an information memo that provides guidance for dealing with cell towers and small cell technologies.

Read the current issue of the Cities Bulletin

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