Smart Talks on 5G Technology and Small Cells at #MACoCon

“On average each household has 13 connected wireless devices. In the near future it is estimated that each household will have upward of 50 connected wireless devices.” – Michelle Painter, Sprint

Attendees of the MACo Summer Conference session “Surf’s Up! Small Cell Tsunami” got a double dose of information from two prominent groups of players on the small cell field: (1) wireless service  and infrastructure providers and (2) local government attorneys.

Michelle Painter (Sprint) and LaTara Harris (AT&T)
Michelle Painter (Sprint) and LaTara Harris (AT&T)

A panel of wireless services and infrastructure providers shared their perspective on the importance the advancement of small cell technology will have on Maryland and how they are working to deploy the technology around the state. The speakers included Michelle Painter, Counsel and Government Affairs for Sprint; Genese N. Thomas, Network Real Estate for Verizon Wireless; Richard Rothrock, Government Relations Manager for Crown Castle; and LaTara Harris, Regional Director of External Affairs for AT&T.

Richard Rothrock (Crown Castle)
Richard Rothrock (Crown Castle)

Painter provided an overview of what small cells and the future of 5G technology can bring to a community. She also brought an example of a Sprint small cell. Rothrock highlighted the role infrastructure developers play and the successful collaborations they’ve had with local governments. Thomas shared a video and some points explaining how small cells work. And Harris outlined four pillars of what is being sought through statewide legislation: (1) streamlined application processes; (2) shot clocks; (3) reasonable fees; and (4) appropriate access to the right of way. Statewide legislation was introduced last session, but a hearing on the bill did not occur. It is anticipated that some form of statewide legislation will be introduced last session.

Johnny Mautz (Maryland House of Delegates)
Johnny Mautz (Maryland House of Delegates)

A panel of local government attorneys from Baltimore City and Montgomery County shared need to know information about a county’s role in small cell approval and implementation as well as lessons they’ve learned working on small cell regulation within their respective jurisdictions. The speakers included Victor Tervala, Chief Solicitor of Legal Advice & Opinions for the Baltimore City Department of Law; and Jeffrey Zyontz, Senior Legislative Analyst for the Montgomery County Council.

Victor Tervala (Baltimore City)
Victor Tervala (Baltimore City)

Tervala shared four principles local officials need to consider: (1) you cannot prohibit or effectively prohibit the deployment of small cells; (2) you cannot discriminate between services providers providing the same service; (3) you have to allow competition to address gaps in services; (4) you cannot regulate small cells on the basis of health concerns.

Jeffrey Zyontz (Montgomery County)
Jeffrey Zyontz (Montgomery County)

Zyontz went through a list of specific issues counties should consider as owners of the public right of way. These included: the differences between public utilities and the telecom industry; regulation through zoning and through franchise agreements; bonding and insurance coverage; fees charged for access and use; authority over property you own in the right of way and property owned by someone else in your right away.

The session was moderated by Delegate Johnny Mautz and held on Wednesday, August 15 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

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