by Ramona Giwargis,, Bay Area News Group, 6 July 2017
(Photo): San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is photographed during a special meeting called by the council with regard to the Feb. 21, 2017 flood that inundated some communities in San Jose that are adjacent to Coyote Creek, which overran its banks. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)
Lawmakers in 179 California cities including San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco are fighting a bill to streamline permitting for wireless antennas on public buildings, streetlamps and traffic signal poles that they say would limit local control over where they go.
Senate Bill 649, by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, proposes scaling back permit processes for antennas and equipment in an effort to meet demand for wireless services. It would cap how much a local government could charge phone companies for leases to $250 per year, though it does not prohibit them from “mutually agreeing” to a charge that’s different.
Supporters say the proposed law could lower cell phone bills for customers, increase wireless access, allow the state to deploy 5G networks and help California remain a leader in the wireless industry.
But the cities and counties opposing the bill say it would be a financial giveaway to telecom companies at the expense of taxpayers. Local officials, they say, would no longer approve the permits in a public hearing, and would lose their power to negotiate public benefits, such as network access for police, fire and parks.
“Our citizens should be concerned because they will no longer have any say-so over these things,” said San Jose Councilman Johnny Khamis. “It takes away the control of where we can place them, the aesthetic qualities and how much revenues we can charge for use of public space.”
Under the bill, phone companies like Verizon or AT&T could install antennas as large as 6 cubic feet and equipment boxes as large as 35 cubic feet — about the size of a refrigerator — sparking concerns about visual blight from the bulky equipment.
SB 649 is primarily supported by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association which said it will help boost the economy. Locally, it’s supported by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the East Bay Leadership Council.