After surviving lawsuits involving 70 municipalities in Ohio over the last year and passing the House and Senate, small cell legislation is heading to Gov. Kasich for his signature. The bill is an example of the push-pull, give-and-take necessary for next generation networks to get deployed.
House Bill 478 and its companion Senate Bill 331 are the product of months of negotiations and compromise between local governments and the wireless industry, according to its sponsors State Representatives Ryan Smith and Sarah LaTourette. For more than three months on a bi-weekly basis, municipal and telecom officials participated in conference calls that usually lasted five hours, according to Kent Scarrett, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League.
“On these calls, pain-staking time was devoted to craft language that addressed municipalities’ concerns with the small cell facility language enacted through Senate Bill 331, while also addressing the telecommunication industry’s real concerns of ensuring greater predictability in deploying new technology throughout the state via Ohio’s cities and villages,” Scarrett said in testimony before the Ohio House Government Accountability & Oversight Committee.
Municipalities receive more control over the placement, construction and design of small cells in the public right of way in the final, revised version of the bill compared with its predecessor, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
The legislation creates a regulatory provides the wireless industry with uniform fees to attach to municipal-owned poles and a uniform process for obtaining permits in the public right of way.
Additionally, the competitive rules apply to both cable operators and wireless service providers for the operation of small cell facilities.
Keith Pennachio, EVP of SQUAN, applauded the passage of the small cell bill, but he called for more regulation poles owned by utilities.
“While the passage of Bill 478 is a monumental step that will benefit long-term proliferation of technologies like small cells and 5G, more will need to be done with the utility sector to create an equitable platform for joint use,” Pennachio said.
When it comes locating an antenna on a utility pole, the pricing differences between a regulated pole versus a non-regulated pole can be extreme. A regulated pole can be limited to $24 per year, while a utility can demand $2,000 annually for an unregulated pole, according to Pennachio.
“Poles owned by utility companies represent a distinctly different set of hurdles,” he said. “Plus, a single polygon can have poles owned by the utilities, the municipality and the telecom companies, which means we are faced with three different sets of rules for one small cell deployment.”
With the passage of Bill 478, greater focus should be given to utility-regulated poles and the compensation mechanisms for fair use in small cell applications, Pennachio said.
J. Sharpe Smith
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.