GR drafts rules on 5G infrastructure


A state act issued March 2019 restricted the power of cities to control their public right of way and allow wireless companies to expand 5G data services, but Grand Rapids has proposed some administrative rules to keep some control over the spread of 5G infrastructure in its own right of way.

The city’s draft administrative policy on wireless co-location sets rules on receiving, submitting and tracking applications, outlines the city’s decision process, provides for notification of the installation of a small-cell facility and sets a process for the testing of facilities on a three-year cycle and posting results.

The policy comes in response to a series of federal and state decisions. The Federal Communications Commission in January 2019 issued Order 133 to promote the expansion of 5G services across the U.S. The order limits municipal control of the public right of way with respect to wireless service companies.

The state of Michigan then enacted 2018 Public Act 365 in March, which provides even more restrictive, uniform, statewide measures to encourage 5G development in Michigan as quickly as possible.

The city passed an ordinance June 11 to govern small-cell applications and co-locations, which conforms to both the FCC and the state. As a condition of adoption, the city plans to implement a policy to further regulate small-cell facilities and effectively administer the regulation already imposed by the ordinance.

As the Business Journal previously reported, although many city staff opposed the measure — which they said put more control in the hands of telecom companies — the adoption of the ordinance was necessary for the city to maintain some control of its ROW; otherwise, the city would be in violation of PA 365.

“I’m not happy to be representing this item,” Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong said prior to the passage of the ordinance, “but where I come down on it is to preserve the little bit of control we have is better, and to maybe live to fight another day is better, than issuing a moratorium.”

The city heard many residential concerns that there is not enough knowledge on public health consequences related to electromagnetic frequencies from a 5G co-location prior to adopting its ordinance.

Highlights of the policy

All requests for small-cell wireless will be received through the utility permit online portal. All applications must be on behalf of a city-registered metro act or franchise utility to apply for a permit.

The city will maintain a task-tracking calendar to coordinate processing for all applications received from wireless companies. The calendar will contain all dates, deadlines and notices for each application received and will serve as the master document for ensuring compliance with state and local law.

All applications will be reviewed within 25 days of receipt by Grand Rapids’ Engineering Department. Checks will be completed to determine whether an application is sufficient for further consideration.

For an application to be considered, it must include a site plan, be ADA compliant and comply with spacing requirements imposed by the city. A small-cell facility may not be located within 600 feet of an existing or proposed small-cell facility by the same applicant or permit holder, for example.

The applicant’s plans also may not interfere with public or private infrastructure, traffic control equipment, drain systems, public utilities, sightlines or clear zones for transportation or pedestrians.

The city will mail notices to addresses of record within 300 feet of a location where a permit has been issued for the construction of a wireless facility. Per state law, residents will not be able to oppose installation through the municipality.

All wireless service providers occupying the ROW pursuant to a permit being issued will be subject to recurring charges for use of space in the municipal ROW.

At the time the administrative policy was drafted, the rental rates are as follows: $20 for each rental of an existing, authority-owned utility pole or wireless support structure; $125 for each rental of a utility pole or support structure that has been installed by or for a wireless provider after March 12, 2019; and $30 for each co-location on an authority-owned pole.

According to city documents, local policies may be amended to conform to changes in local, state and federal law or to respond to developing information on the health risks associated with small-cell wireless technology.

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