A law facilitating the deployment of wireless communications infrastructure has passed the Missouri legislature. The bill, known as HB 331, includes laws to restrict localities from implementing laws that discourage cell site development. The measure is now on the desk of Gov. Nixon awaiting his signature.
The cell siting language was originally in HB 345, but was moved to HB 331 to separate it from pole attachment language, which was seen as more controversial. HB 345 also passed the legislature.
HB 331 proposes to prohibit municipalities from evaluating a cell site applicant’s business decisions with respect to the design of its service, customer demand for service, or quality of its service in a certain area. A municipality would also not be allowed to evaluate a cell tower application based on the availability of other potential locations for wireless site placement. Additionally, the type of wireless infrastructure, such as DAS, could not be dictated by the local authority.
The measure outlaws unnecessary environmental testing requirements, charging extraordinary consultant fees and imposing surety requirements, among other things. Additionally, it codifies the FCC’s 150-day new application, 90-day collocation shot clock.
Even though the federal government has acted to speed wireless infrastructure deployment, local government and wireless carriers still deal a patchwork system of ordinances, terminology and processes that differ among various communities, Molly Kocour Boyle, AT&T spokesperson, told AGL Bulletin.
“This lack of uniformity slows investment, deployment and construction of wireless infrastructure, denying Missourians timely access to new technologies,” she said. “These bills create reasonable approval timelines and building permit fees to ensure timely investment for Missouri consumers.”
Parallel Bill Supports Siting on Public Land, on Electrical Infrastructure
HB 345, among other things, limits cell tower moratoria to six months in duration. Additionally, a moratorium could not be put in to place and retroactively hold up pending applications.
To encourage the development of cell sites on on public lands, the bill said an authority would not be allowed to charge a wireless service provider a fee to locate a cell site there or to propose a lease that is less than 15 years. It also set up a process for resolving disputes concerning fair market value of public lands.
The bill seeks to promote the use of the electrical infrastructure for siting antennas. Pole owners would be required to set rates for attachments that have been agreed to by all parties and are “just and reasonable,” which the measure defined as no more than the federal cable rate. It also set up arbitration processes for disagreements concerning pole-attachment rates.
Boyle said AT&T supports HB 331 and HB 345 because they represent a balanced approach to speeding broadband and wireless deployment, while considering the interests of local cities and counties.
“In previous sessions, the General Assembly has taken steps to modernize Missouri’s communication laws to encourage broadband deployment and competition,” she said. “These bills build on that foundation by simplifying and streamlining the broadband deployment process with consistent rules while maintaining political subdivisions and private property owners’ control over their public and private lands.”