House Bill 2564 Opposition Letter

October __, 2018

 

Honorable ________________

State Representative or Senator

_________________________

_________________________

RE:  Opposition to House Bill 2564 Regarding Wireless Facilities Regulation

Dear Rep. or Senator _______________:

We are writing today to express ________(name of municipality’s)__________strong opposition to House Bill 2564 regarding wireless facilities regulation and to respectfully ask you to vote NO on the bill.  Our municipality supports the deployment of high speed broadband service throughout Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth has legally charged municipalities, however, with the task of managing their public rights-of-way.  This includes managing the multitude of facilities (pipes, poles, wires, antennas, cabinets, etc.) in a manner that protects public safety and ensures orderly construction and repair.  House Bill 2564 would prohibit municipalities from managing wireless facilities in the rights-of-way and thereby prevent them from doing their jobs as required by the Commonwealth. 

 

Specifically, HB 2564 does the following:

  1. It strips municipalities of their current right to manage wireless poles and antennas in the pubic rights-of-way. (Bill Section 3(e)) If the bill is enacted, municipalities would have no input whatsoever over the locations, height, placement, design, or construction of these facilities. There are approximately 154,000 of these facilities in the rights-of-way in the U.S. today and that number is expected to grow to over 800,000 by 2026. (CTIA-The Wireless Industry) HB 2564 would force Pennsylvania municipalities to accommodate this massive increase in installations while prohibiting them from ensuring a responsible and orderly rollout.
  2. It drastically cuts the fees that municipalities may assess for use of the rights-of-way to $25 per site per year. (Bill Section 3(d)) Currently, many municipalities assess approximately $1,000 per year for new poles and approximately $500 per year for new antennas in the rights-of-way.  On September 26 in its Third Report and Order, the FCC reduced these fees to a maximum of $270 per year for both poles or antennas.  HB 2564 would slash even this limited fee of $270 by over 90% to a maximum of $25 per site per year. (Bill Section 3(d)) Given that this fee represents only a tiny fraction of a municipality’s costs, local taxpayers would be forced to nearly fully subsidize the wireless industry.
  3. It fails to legally protect municipalities from accidents in the rights-of-way involving wireless facilities. Under the terms of the bill, if an accident occurs due to a wireless facility in the public rights-of-way, a municipality would be forced to sue the wireless company and obtain a judicial finding of company negligence in order to be indemnified by the company. (Bill Section 9) This is in direct conflict with standard municipal practice and would expose municipalities to costly liability should an accident occur.

 

For the last seven years, municipalities in Pennsylvania have been approving wireless poles and antennas proposed by wireless companies for installation in the public rights-of-way.  Neither the sponsor of HB 2564 nor the wireless industry has provided any evidence that municipalities have been an obstacle to wireless deployment or the introduction of 5G technology.  There is no need, therefore, to strip local governments of their ability to manage their rights-of-way and to collect reasonable fees to recover their costs.

There is one legitimate public policy problem when it comes to wireless broadband and that is that there are unserved areas in the Commonwealth.  Many rural areas still do not have access to high speed broadband service.  According to the Governor’s Office, over 800,000 Pennsylvanians lack access to high-speed internet service.  Regrettably, there is nothing in H.B. 2564 that requires wireless companies to address this legitimate issue and expand their networks into unserved rural areas.

For all of the above reasons, we respectfully request that you vote NO on House Bill 2564.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

 

Signature:  ________________________________

 

Print:  ____________________________________

 

Title:  _____________________________________

 

Date: