PA House Poised to Strip Municipalities of Their Right to Manage Wireless Facilities ACTION NEEDED NOW

The House Consumer Affairs Committee in Harrisburg is pushing ahead with House Bill 2564, which would preempt Pennsylvania municipalities from managing wireless facilities in the public rights-of-way. We expect that the bill will be voted upon next week. The bill would harm municipalities in three significant ways:

  1. It would strip municipalities of all of their zoning authority over wireless poles and antennas in the public rights-of-way. (Section 3(e)).
  2. It would drastically cut the fees that municipalities may assess for use of the rights-of-way by wireless companies to $25 per site per year. (Section 3(d))
  3. It would fail to legally protect municipalities from accidents in the rights-of-way involving wireless facilities. (Section 9)

For these reasons, we have advised our municipal clients, as well as the statewide municipal associations, that HB 2564 is unacceptable and should be opposed. 

What can you and your municipality do?

Given that is appears that House Bill 2564 will be voted upon next week, today is the day to contact your State Representative and State Senator by phone, email, and/or letter to voice your opposition to the bill. CLICK HERE FOR A SAMPLE LETTER OR EMAIL. The names and addresses of your State Representatives can be found HERE and your State Senators can be found HERE
 
More information about House Bill 2564
Over the past two months, the PA Municipal League (PML), PA State Association of Boroughs (PSAB), and PA State Association of Township Commissioners (PSATC) have tried to work with the bill sponsor, Rep. Frank Farry (Bucks) and the Committee staff to reach a compromise. We testified at the Committee hearing on August 9, submitted written amendments on August 20, and prepared written responses to the Committee’s specific questions on September 24. Unfortunately, except for a few cosmetic changes, our amendments were rejected. The revised draft of the bill, which was provided on October 1, would do the following:

  1. Preemption of Municipal Zoning Authority: HB 2564 would strip municipalities of their current rights to manage wireless poles and antennas being installed in the pubic rights-of-way. If the bill is enacted, municipalities would have no input whatsoever over the locations, height, placement, design, or construction of these facilities. The bill purports to allow zoning regulation of poles over 55 feet, but it states that the company has a legal “right” to install poles at such heights. (Section 3(f)(2)) There are approximately 154,000 of these facilities 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. Drastic Reduction of Fees: Currently, our municipal clients 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 cut even this limited fee of $270 by over 90% to a maximum of $25 per site per year. (Section 3(d)) Given that these fees represent a tiny fraction of a municipality’s costs of managing wireless facilities, local taxpayers would be forced to nearly fully subsidize the wireless industry.
  3. Failure to Legally Protect Municipalities: 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. (Section 9) This is in direct conflict with standard municipal practice and would expose municipalities to significant liability should an accident occur.

Please contact your State Representative and State Senator by phone, email, and/or letter NOW to voice your opposition to House Bill 2564. CLICK HERE FOR A SAMPLE LETTER OR EMAIL. If you send or email a letter, please also forward it to me so that we may keep track. Please feel free to contact our firm directly if you have any questions or concerns or need any additional resources.