Sun Surveys the 5G Small Cell Battleground in Maryland

Fells - Aliceanna2As the advancement of 5G wireless looms on the horizon the consternation over the deployment of the small cell facilities necessary for the new technology continues.

The Baltimore Sun reports on the crux of the issues between the wireless industry and local governments.

Some reporting from the perspective of the wireless industry:

Wireless companies say that in the short term, small cell facilities will relieve congestion on the current 4G networks. And they eventually will be used to roll out the 5G network.

Anticipating an ever-broadening rollout in the coming years, the industry is hoping for standards that are uniform from one county to the next, as well as low permit fees.

And some reporting from the perspective of local governments:

But local governments in Maryland and elsewhere are seeking to protect their authority over what happens in their communities, especially in rights of way along streets where companies want to place equipment. The counties and cities want to be able to set rules and fees, as they do with other structures.

“Counties really want innovation. They want to advance technology and make sure their communities have advancements when it comes to cellular coverage and network services,” said Natasha Mehu, legislative director for the Maryland Association of Counties.

“However, we are very concerned with ensuring that whatever moves forward has local government and community input,” Mehu said.

The article highlights a number of important points on the deployment of small cells which counties have a strong stance on, including:

  • FCC Orders: In January an FCC order went into effect, over local government objections, restricting local government authority over the deployment of small cells within the local rights of way in several ways. As counties continue with litigation over that order, a recent FCC docket seeks to impose even more restrictions on local government authority over deployment. Local governments are opposing this docket as well.
  • Statewide Bills: Attempts in the past two legislative sessions have resulted in the statewide bills either being withdrawn or sent to summer study. MACo strongly opposed those bills as they would have significantly restricted local zoning authority over the installation of small cell wireless facilities and needlessly advanced corporate interests at the expense of community input and needs. Without these statewide bills, local governments have continued to negotiate appropriate arrangements with the wireless providers locally as well as work to develop local laws with community input to guide the process.
  • Local Actions: Small cells are already here in Maryland. Over 600 small cells are already deployed in just Baltimore City. The article points out counties including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince George’s, and Montgomery have local small cell bills pending. Additionally, there are a number of municipalities in the state that have already passed local small ordinances.

The rollout of 5G and small cells in Maryland remains lively for sure.

For more information:

5G wireless is coming — and the battle has already begun over where to allow the antennas in Maryland (The Baltimore Sun)

Public Notice Announcing New Docket (FCC)

FCC Small Cell Order Goes into Effect; Challenges Continue (Conduit Street)

Communities Seek to Appeal FCC Small Cell Order (Conduit Street)

MACo Submits Concerns to FCC Over Small Cell Order (Conduit Street)

Local Government Comments – FCC Order – Remove Barriers to Infrastructure Deployment – 10.29.19

They’re Here! Counties Take Steps to Embrace Small Cells in Maryland (Conduit Street)

MACo: Bill on Small Cells Removes Public Input and Transparency, Favors Corporate Interests (Conduit Street)