Crown Castle sought an injunction against the town of Hempstead, NY in federal court after Hempstead cancelled its license agreement and demanded the company remove all 152 small cell nodes within the town’s right-of-way (ROW.)
Crown alleges Hempstead threatened to remove the equipment itself if Crown did not, by the end of the day, on July 6, at Crown’s cost. “With this illegal termination, demand, and threat,” the town breached the ROW license agreement and “violated Sections 253 and 332 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which limits the power of municipalities to regulate the deployment of telecommunications facilities and personal wireless service facilities,” writes Crown in its complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Crown Castle also seeks a temporary restraining order to stop the town from removing the facilities from the ROW. Given the short time-frame, Crown sought an expedited review. Crown filed the document June 28. The court gave Hempstead until July 17, to explain why the town should not be prevented from removing Crown’s equipment.
Crown asserts Hempstead is using the “termination” to negotiate a new license agreement with more favorable terms. The company also says despite repeated attempts to negotiate a new deal with Hempstead’s town attorney, “the town has been unresponsive and unwilling to do so.” Also, the town’s “unlawful actions, if not enjoined, will cause irreparable harm to the public interest in deprivation of reliable emergency communications,” says Crown.
Crown tells the court it has two types of small cell equipment in Hempstead’s ROW. The first is a pole top node that includes antennas within a cylinder that is 48 inches by 14.5 inches and sits on top of a utility pole. The second is a commzone node that includes antennas within a cylinder that is 24 inches by 14.5 inches and is attached to a utility pole, typically 12 inches from the top communications line on the pole. Both the pole top and commzone nodes have a shroud equipment box containing telecommunications equipment mounted to their respective utility poles.
Crown’s current customers in Hempstead include Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint. T-Mobile is using 150 of the 152 nodes, and Verizon Wireless is using 84, with an additional 48 proposed nodes to be installed for future services. Sprint is also scheduled to provide services on 38 of the same 48 proposed nodes. Hempstead is allowing Sprint to provide services from 25 of the 152 existing nodes and is in the process of becoming fully operational, Crown tells the court.
Crown alleges Hempstead’s termination letter is “ineffective” because it does not adhere to the license agreement, including giving either party 45 days notice of intent to terminate. Hempstead “never” notified Crown “of any alleged default” and did not issue a non-renewal notice so the license agreement was automatically renewed, according to Crown.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
July 9, 2019