Rochester Looks at Local Impact of Small Cell Technology Legislation

By ELENA DURNBAUGH

State Rep. Michael Webber attended the October 8 Rochester City Council meeting to give an update regarding 5G small cell technology legislation that was recently passed by the House Energy Policy Committee.

Senate Bills 637 and 894, introduced by Senators Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) and Joe Hune (R-Fowlerville), aim to facilitate the deployment of 5G mobile technology in Michigan through the installation of small cells, which are wireless antennae with small footprints. The bills would streamline the permit process for these facilities by allowing providers access to public rights-of-way for attaching cells to poles and structures in public rights-of-way. The legislation would also allow the FCC to alter the terms of franchise fees for public rights-of-way.

Although the legislation would allow wider access to next-generation internet connectivity, Mayor Pro-Tem Kim Russell raised concerns about the local impact of the bills.

“It looks good on the outside when you reduce the franchise fee in the peg which is educational and giving people internet,” she said. “My understanding of this bill is there’s no local say. It takes a lot of money away from communities, and there’s no local say.”

Russell said that the current bill would cause Rochester and other local communities to lose millions of dollars from franchise fees. She also voiced concern about the appearance of small cells in rights-of-way.

“I’ve heard some of the same concerns about the lost revenue and some of the aesthetics,” said Webber. “So we’re trying to look through that and trying to see if we could potentially offer amendments, or what we could do if this bill is moving forward.”

According to Russell, several communities are signing a letter of opposition.

“I think this is going to be critical throughout the state and throughout the country,” said Russell.

In May, Mayor Lee Kilbourn of Auburn, Michigan, voiced similar concerns before the House Energy Policy Committee. Kilbourn, who recently served as president of the Michigan Association of Mayors, said that the legislation would prevent towns from determining what works for their residents by taking away local government’s control of rights-of-way.

Rochester City Council will discuss 5G small cell technology legislation as an agenda item at a later meeting, before future action is taken on the legislation at the state level.