August 30, 2016 —
Okay, so we have had a little trouble defining what a small cell is, but we DO know what it isn’t. It isn’t a mini-cell tower for example. No matter how fast our industry needs to move in siting wireless infrastructure, any one of us that tries to jump the zoning line only makes the rest of us look bad. I would like to drill down on this.
Carriers and other wireless providers regularly approach municipalities with plans to construct a variety of wireless networks. But Mobilitie is approaching municipalities trying to deploy mini cell towers in public rights of way under the “small cell” moniker. That, despite the towers were going to be used for DAS and range from 70 to 120 feet in height, which are definitely not small cells. In reality, these were outside the realm of small cells. They really were mini cell towers looking for a home in public rights of way.
On top of that, Mobilitie approaches municipalities as a “utility,” and asks that the municipality approve “multiple facilities in the rights-of-way on an expedited basis.”
While it may seem like a small difference in the overall wireless ecosystem, there is a big distinction between utility rights-of-way and zoning. And, even if a company has a certificate of public convenience, these sites are not “right of way” applications. Really this was a way to try and avoid dealing with zoning ordinances, or get in there before any ordinances were drafted. These sites are zoning issues.
So what makes this so different than what other players do? Not really that much. But the tipping point here is if a municipality feels that a wireless company has misrepresented itself or what it is doing, the relationship between the whole wireless industry and the municipality is soured. If you are the company coming in after a wireless company has upset a municipality, don’t expect a warm reception. We all have a responsibility to treat municipalities with respect and honesty.