Statewide Small Cell Bill Falters; Focus on Local Efforts

The hearing on a controversial bill (SB 1188) to establish statewide regulation of small cells was canceled earlier this week, likely putting the issue to bed completely for the remainder of session. As The Washington Post reports:

State Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he canceled a Tuesday hearing on the bill because it was too controversial. He said local governments and wireless companies were “worlds apart” over how and where to allow “small-cell” technology to expand broadband capacity and install 5G, the next generation of wireless technology. Residents also were worried about the potential health effects of cellular equipment closer to homes, he said.

“As far apart as the jurisdictions are with the telecommunications companies, it’s hard to imagine we’d get anything resolved” before the General Assembly session ends next month, Middleton said Wednesday.

While counties embrace innovation and the advancement of broadband technology, MACo opposed the legislation as it significantly preempted local authority and had inequitable impacts on local communities. As the article notes, local governments around the state are operating under the requirements of the FCC and have passed or are working on passing local legislation, ordinances, or agreements to guide the deployment of small cells. Counties believe such local efforts successfully provide a balance between industry needs and public interests, and do not necessitate statewide preempting legislation.

 “Planning and zoning is a very local thing,” Mehu said. “I really think counties are interested in this technology. They’re just looking to handle things on the local level.”

Read the full article in The Washington Post to learn more.

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.