The Small Cell Facilities Deployment Act, which is being quietly rushed for a vote this week in Springfield, gives wireless providers unbridled access to public property.
In anticipation of its fifth-generation 5G network, Big Telecom is counting on using local streetlights and traffic signal poles to house its "small cell" antennas. Compared to traditional cell 200-foot-high cell towers, the small cell antennas -- usually the size of refrigerators -- are positioned closer to the ground and have shorter ranges, so more of them are needed. Appearances aside, deploying these massive electronic barnacles in the right of way restricts local government's ability to do what's right for residents.
Municipalities would be severely limited in authorizing placement, setting fees and negotiating contracts, which can offset property taxes and fees. So much for local control. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation, noting that the wireless industry had tilted the playing field in its favor by giving away the public infrastructure to wealthy corporations. Under the Illinois bill, the public won't have much say when it comes to placement and aesthetics of the antennas. Small cell antennas are equipped with cooling fans and generators. And while we all want wireless networks to improve speed and connectivity for consumers, your phone bill won't go down as small cell antennas start popping up throughout your neighborhood.
Finally, the bill would eliminate any existing contracts that any local governments have made with wireless providers for the public infrastructure within the last two years. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint have already received more than their fair share of generous state subsides and protections. Springfield needs to take this legislation off the fast track and balance it more in favor of consumers and residents. As mayors, we remain committed to helping ensure that happens.
Can you hear us now?
Richard Veenstra, Addison Mayor and President of DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference