January 14, 2015 — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of the wireless industry’s right to know why an application to build wireless facilities has been denied. The ruling came in the case known as T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell, Georgia, where the carrier sued the city for violating guarantees in the Telecom Act of 1996 that reasons for the denial of a wireless site must be provided to a carrier in writing.
On April 14, 2010, the city’s planning and zoning division sent a letter to T-Mobile, which advised the carrier an application had been denied, offering only access to the public hearing minutes for reasons why the denial occurred.
“PCIA applauds the Supreme Court for recognizing that the City of Roswell had not complied with its statutory obligation to inform PCIA member T-Mobile of its rationale for denying a siting application. Today’s decision vindicates PCIA’s conviction that wireless providers must be informed in a clear-cut and timely manner when siting applications are turned down,” Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said in a prepared release.
It took 26 days for Roswell’s city council to provide T-Mobile with the reasons for the denial, which included aesthetic incompatibility and unnecessary technology.
“In the opinion delivered by Justice Sotomayor, the court found that the city council provided the reasons for the denial with sufficient clarity, but failed to provide those reasons in a timely manner, which violated the Act,” wrote Allyssia Bryant, associate, Keller and Heckman, in the firm’s Telecom Business Alert.
The Supreme Court decision reversed and remanded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which held that the city’s denial letter, public hearing minutes, and transcript satisfied the 1996 Act’s “in writing” requirement.