The following editorials oppose the 5G "small cell" antenna bills proposed by the telecommunications/wireless industry in numerous states across the country.
The editorial boards of four major newspapers in California are opposed to this legislation because it imposes serious limitations on local control over the siting of cell antennas.
"The telecom corporations want to streamline permitting and reduce costs for slapping their transmitters — ranging in size from a pizza box to a small refrigerator — on municipal utility poles, street lights and traffic signals wherever they want....
In Sacramento, the telecoms have hoards of money to fuel legislators’ reelection campaigns, and they routinely spend it.
During the last election cycle, AT&T doled out more than $1.6 million to political groups and politicians. It didn’t discriminate among parties. Virtually everyone got a piece. The California Democratic Party was given $615,000. But the Republican Party got even more, $625,000.
AT&T also spent $250,000 on the annual Speaker’s Cup golf tournament at the world-class Pebble Beach course. That’s the Assembly Democrats’ big fundraiser.
By contrast, the League of California Cities and other local government organizations aren’t allowed to spend a dime on politicians because their money comes from taxpayers. They do lobby, however." (Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2017)
The legislature, as well as most newspapers, have ignored the potential health risks from the proliferation of cell antennas necessary for 5G adoption including widespread exposure of the population to new radio frequency bands including millimeter waves. As many as 50,000 new cell sites will be required in California alone.
For more information about the potential public health risks from this new technology see
For more information about the potential public health risks from this new technology see
California should butt out of cities’ dealings
with telecom companies using public facilities
Editorial Board, San Jose Mercury News, July 11, 2017
A state bill that would give huge telecom companies a financial break and unprecedented rights to use public property at almost no cost is sailing through the Legislature this summer.
Why? Money, of course. Telecom companies measure profits in the tens of billions. California lawmakers understand this, so that’s whose side they’re on. The bill sailed through the Senate. Now it’s up to the Assembly to stand up for communities — particularly low-income neighborhoods — that will be harmed by it.
SB 649 would prohibit cities from any discretionary review or public say on plans to put “small cell” wireless antennas on publicly owned light poles and other structures in any neighborhood. (Yes, even your neighborhood.) And it would sharply limit fees that cities charge private industry for using property or facilities that taxpayers have paid for.
Sponsored by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, SB 649 is billed as cutting through permitting red tape and improving cell phone service. But it will slash existing revenue to cities such as San Francisco, which stands to lose millions of dollars a year. And it will eviscerate cities’ ability to bring high-speed Internet service to low-income neighborhoods, as San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has promised to do for East San Jose.
Other mayors are joining Liccardo and the League of California Cities to fight this outrageous power grab by the state and telecoms. We hope it’s not too late.
Here are a few of SB 649’s problems:
By preventing cities from negotiating over antenna locations, the bill eliminates their ability to push companies to provide high-speed access in underprivileged areas. Without that leverage, companies will focus only on areas where they make the most money.
By limiting fees, the bill deprives cities of revenue they could use to increase access to broadband in those poor neighborhoods. Companies will save an estimated $30 million statewide over 10 years — at the cost of public services.
By making public property broadly available to for-profit companies, the bill will limit cities’ and counties’ ability to locate their own communication equipment, such as police and fire systems and equipment from partners — potentially Facebook in San Jose — working on ways to help equalize Internet access.
And wait until neighbors find out they have no say over the clumps of electronic equipment that show up on light poles near their houses. But state legislators don’t care about that. People won’t call them; they’ll scream to the local mayor and council members.
The bill sets a terrible precedent of forcing communities to all but give away public property for private profit. Yet it passed the Assembly local government committee last week and goes to the Communication and Conveyance Committee on July 12.
So — where are area Assembly members? Ash Kalra? Marc Berman? Evan Low?
They’re fresh from serving on city councils. They could lead the fight to stop SB 649 in the Assembly and be the heroes of local government. And their voters.
Democratic legislators take bold stands,
except when they don’t
except when they don’t
Editorial Board, Sacramento Bee, July 9, 2017
California’s Legislature, it’s said, is about as liberal as can be.
With supermajorities of Democrats in both houses, legislators definitely go out of their way to defy President Donald Trump, especially on immigration issues. On business issues, however, lawmakers are far less adventuresome.
In the coming days, the Democrats’ leftward slant will be tested on major bills affecting the powerful telecommunications industry, privacy rights and consumer protection….
A second, Senate Bill 649 by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, would give wireless providers such as AT&T virtually unfettered ability to place wireless transmitters on utilities poles control by cities and counties, for a nominal fee.
It’s part of a national effort by wireless providers to introduce 5G technology, which promises to vastly increase wireless’ ability to provide super-fast connections, and compete more directly with old-line cable providers. Similar bills are pending or have been approved in 20 states.
Hueso’s bill would cap fees that local governments could impose on wireless companies at $250 plus expenses for placing their devices on polls. Certainly, local authorities should not gouge companies that provide what could be useful technology. But Hueso’s bill also strips local authorities of the right to regulate the use of property in their jurisdictions. We side with local officials: they should be able to determine what corporations build in public spaces, not Sacramento legislators ….
Clearly, something else is going on. We cannot help but think that for all their bluster and bravado, Democrats see business lobbyists arrayed against them and do what too many politicians do: duck.
An audacious 5G power (pole) grab
Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2017
Telecommunications companies are preparing to roll out the next generation of wireless networks, dubbed “5G,” which promise an enormous increase in capacity and connectivity. These networks not only will increase competition in broadband, they are a key enabling technology for a host of advanced products and services. They also represent a gateway to better economic opportunities in inner-city areas that are underserved by broadband today.
But these new networks are different in structure and appearance too. Instead of high-powered antennas on tall towers, they rely on an array of lower-power transmitters closer to the ground that serve much smaller “cells.” That’s why mobile phone companies are concerned that cities and counties will throw up bureaucratic or financial roadblocks to 5G in their communities. It’s not a groundless worry; wireless companies already have encountered local resistance in places where they have introduced the new technology.
It’s the look and the intrusiveness of the small cell networks that seems to spark the controversy. People are upset about the deployment of thousands of pieces of equipment the size of small appliances being placed strategically and liberally on publicly owned “vertical infrastructure” (that’s bureaucratese for municipal utility poles, street lights and even traffic lights). That means a lot of equipment in full view and in proximity — really close in some cases — to houses and people.
Local governments must retain some authority to push back on proposed deployments.
There is precedent for this kind of brazen move: The phone and cable TV companies persuaded the Legislature in 2006 to end local control over the construction of new cable TV systems, arguing that a shift to state licensing would bring much-needed competition to pay TV. But that logic doesn’t apply to the mobile phone market, where there is vibrant competition. Local government officials are crying foul, calling it an audacious power grab and the equivalent of a gift of public funds to billion-dollar telecommunications companies that don’t need the help.
The new mobile networks also will involve much more equipment in public view than an upstart cable TV system. Wireless companies say that the transmitters are typically the size of a pizza box or briefcase, although the bill would allow equipment up to the size of a small refrigerator.
Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), the author of SB 649, argues that wireless upgrades are a public benefit, and therefore local governments should not have the right to endanger them with unreasonable hurdles. Besides, he says, the more that individual cities are allowed to charge for their pole rentals, the less that wireless companies will have left for network upgrades in other, possibly more needy communities. But the bill goes far beyond setting a reasonable fee to access public property; it would usurp the rights of cities and counties to make decisions about how to use their property. Those rights include the right to make the wrong decisions.
It’s clearly in everyone’s best interest for 5G networks to be deployed, and surely most local governments would agree. But why shouldn’t cities and counties be able to try to leverage their assets to get a good deal for residents as part of the process, or take the time to get the public’s input on what could be a significant change to their physical and virtual landscapes?
Small cell technology does not have to be obtrusive or unattractive, nor will every street in a community necessarily require outfitting. That’s why local governments must retain some authority to push back on proposed deployments. Left to their own devices, telecommunications companies would naturally opt for the most efficient and cost-effective configuration when making a capital investment. Their goals are making profits and serving customers, not making a city look nice.
The telecommunication industry has been pushing this “streamlining” strategy in other states, with various degrees of success. Eleven have adopted some sort of laws to limit the local permitting process and pole fees. Legislators in other states, like Washington, have been more skeptical. California’s lawmakers ought to be wary as well and show more interest in protecting the rights of communities to govern the use of their infrastructure, rather than letting telecommunication companies make those decisions for them.
A brazen phone power grab
Editorial Board, San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 2017
Local governments should decide where cell phone equipment goes.
San Francisco has hundreds of them: slim cylinders and flat boxes strapped to utility poles that serve as mini-cell towers to speed up wireless service. The devices are essential for anyone carrying a smartphone or tablet, but the subject is breeding a battle over money and political control.
Telecom firms such as Verizon and AT&T are pushing Sacramento to pass a law that would essentially remove the control cities and counties now have over where the equipment goes and how much localities can charge. In San Francisco’s case, the loss could total in the millions, according to Supervisor Mark Farrell, an opponent of the measure, SB 649.
His argument, backed by scores of other local jurisdictions, is about as basic as home rule gets. Cities, not Sacramento, should have the final say on what private industry can build in the public right of way.
The telecoms are selling the measure as a way to streamline approvals and improve coverage, an appealing idea to anyone who’s had a call dropped or Facebook session cut off. But these companies also want to curb the fees that local communities can charge to only a few hundred dollars per device.
In San Francisco’s experience, nearly all of the mini-cell towers are approved, making the argument about timeliness suspect. The existing rules give telecoms ready access to phone poles and utility posts as a way to fill in broader cell phone service that can be disrupted by tall buildings, thick walls or rolling landscape. Also, as wireless needs grow, more bandwidth to handle the traffic is needed. Cities have responded with lease agreements and worked out arrangements to put the wireless boxes in the right spots.
This bill would shred that process. The measure, which is showing up in nearly identical shape in other states, is about cutting expenses and avoiding local oversight. Health concerns about cell phone towers are not an issue in this dispute since that topic is governed by federal rules.
The bill has already shot through the state Senate and faces its first test before the Assembly’s Local Government Committee on Wednesday. That panel should heed the criticism from their home communities and stop a measure that subverts local control.