GCS gets ‘seat at the table’ in regulating wireless rights of ways

By Nick Blank
Posted 4/17/19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - City officials are wary of state infringement of rights of ways and wireless communications.

Council members and staff questioned Orlando-based attorney Thomas Cloud on two …

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GCS gets ‘seat at the table’ in regulating wireless rights of ways

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - City officials are wary of state infringement of rights of ways and wireless communications.

Council members and staff questioned Orlando-based attorney Thomas Cloud on two bills in the Legislature seeking to curb municipal regulations. Council members later unanimously passed an ordinance updating their telecommunications language and addressing, “small wireless facilities.”

Cloud has helped about 30 cities draft similar ordinances. Updating the city’s definitions would give the city a “seat at the table” in the face of 15 years of changes to telecommunications law, Cloud said.

The problem lies with House Bill 693 and Senate Bill 1000, Cloud said, which attempt to strip local governments of their ability to regulate their own rights of ways.

Cloud referred to the telecommunications companies placing poles in rights of ways as a consequence and jokingly called the invasive poles “hurricane projectiles.” City Attorney L.J Arnold said the proposed bill would gut the city’s authority.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t pass,” Arnold added.

Cloud named five state bills since 2001 that chipped away at local government regulations regarding telecommunications. The bills are attempting to undo a 2017 bill, HB 687, which already limited local governments ability to limit "small wireless facilities" in public rights of ways used for wireless 5G service. When City Manager Steve Kennedy asked what facets of the 2017 law would go away if the new legislation were passed, Cloud replied, “Just about all of it.”

“There’s been a steady erosion of the ability of local governments to regulate their own rights of ways, which is perverse to me.” Cloud said. “Nevertheless, it’s occurring as we speak.”

Cities like Jacksonville and Orlando have numerous abandoned poles from telecommunications companies. Resident Joe Sobotta was concerned with the prospect of abandoned poles.

“If they’re going to abandon equipment, it has to be removed,” Council Member Van Royal said.

Cloud said the Florida League of Cities likely wouldn’t back down if the deregulations, potentially filing a lawsuit. He said it was impossible to predict what the Legislature would do. He said compromises with the telecommunication companies for a new system for strategic placement of fewer poles.

“What [solution] that can’t take place is the city doesn’t take some kind of prophylactic measure now to put in some regulations,” Cloud said. “When going into a fight you have to arm yourself.”

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