Towns unite to oppose wireless antennas on utility poles, streetlights
We all want our smartphones to have faster access to the internet.
But a proposed state law intended to streamline efforts to improve mobile networks is facing opposition from Aurora, Naperville and numerous other municipalities and counties.
The measure would establish the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act and give wireless companies the ability to install "small cell" antennas on publicly owned utility poles, streetlights and rights of way.
Municipal and county officials say the proposed law would limit their authority to regulate the location and deployment of the antennas. It also would impose artificially low fees for both the review of permit applications and the use of publicly owned equipment.
"In essence, it allows private companies to have a monopoly over public infrastructure," Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin said.
On Monday, Irvin and the mayors of Naperville, Willowbrook, Addison, West Chicago, Warrenville, Oswego, Bolingbrook and North Aurora participated in a news conference where they voiced opposition to the measure. They were joined by the chairmen of the DuPage, Kane and Kendall county boards.
Even though a House vote on the measure failed earlier this year, the issue is coming up again during a Tuesday hearing in Springfield.
If the proposal becomes law, officials say, they're concerned that thousands of antennas will be placed throughout the region with local governments getting no say in the matter.
"Each pole could have multiple small cells, making it an eyesore for the community," Irvin said.
Despite their name, the antennas are "fairly large pieces of equipment," according to Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico. Having them on streetlights would "change the landscape of what our neighborhoods look like today," he said.
"We all recognize that 5G communication is coming," Chirico said. "We all want it. But let's be thoughtful about it. Let's plan for it. Let's make sure that we have choices about what type of equipment is being hung on our streetlights -- and how and where."
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said the county opposes any attempt to give large telecommunication companies control of public property.
"In the past year, state lawmakers have already siphoned more than $3.5 million of DuPage taxpayers' money back to Springfield to balance their budget," Cronin said. "Now lawmakers want to give away our infrastructure, paid for and maintained by local taxpayers. We emphatically say, 'no.'"
He said the General Assembly should "keep the management of critical infrastructure where it belongs -- with our communities."
Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said there's no reason for the Illinois House to rush and have a vote on the measure during the fall veto session.
"We all appreciate the investment," Lauzen said. "But we need to make sure that all of us are working together."
Irvin said state lawmakers should continue to negotiate "to find a fair balance between the efforts of wireless companies and the cities and counties."