With the approval of SB 602 – Act 999, Arkansas joined 22 other states who introduced mobile 5G technology and small cell-related legislation in the 2019..
As reported by the NWA Democrat-Gazette, the City of Springdale followed the state’s lead to establish its rules and regulations. “We’ve known this was coming for some time,” said Ernest Cate, Springdale city attorney, who wrote the ordinance with help from telecommunications employees.
“We wanted to do it right and be uniform across the state.”
Springdale currently hosts 12 small cell facilities and is in the process of approving permits for an additional 12 sites. While city officials welcome the new technology and are complying with the FCC’s guidelines, they are restrictive about the placement of equipment and poles. According to the Gazette, Springdale is concerned about cell signals interfering with traffic signals and poles causing blind spots for drivers. Therefore, they prefer equipment installations on existing poles, but will consider placing future poles into the easements along roadways.
Brad Baldwin, the city’s director of engineering and public works, said, “I think they’re fine. It’s a pole put up in a right-of-way. It happens all the time. They’re a good thing because their installation means we will be getting 5G, more bandwidth.”
Meanwhile in Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas, city officials are familiar with the needs and benefits of small cell technology. The Gazette reported that the city currently has 14 active small cells, with 40 more permits recently issued and 67 applications awaiting approval. Although Fayetteville passed a small cell permitting ordinance in 2017, there is still some dissention regarding aesthetics. “This year’s statute has hamstrung the city’s ability to decide where to put cells if they want to consider aesthetics and nature,” said Jonathan Curth, Fayetteville Planning Director.
Curth said residents and city officials worked on the regulations for the equipment because they wanted to ensure management of the city’s right-of-way and aesthetics remained in the city’s purview.
Bentonville officials are also working to update small cell regulations passed in 2018. According to the Gazette, the city does not want equipment installations on existing structures unless those structures are owned by the telecom companies or are new pole installations. “We just want to keep the poles as clean as possible, without any extras,” said Travis Matlock, city Engineering Director. Matlock said Bentonville officials are working with nearly 30 facilities somewhere in the permitting process.
Springdale requires a $100 fee with an application for a small cell facility permit, as well as $250 if the facility will be on an existing city pole. In addition, the city annually charges $30 for use of the right-of-way and $240 for the use of a city pole.
State Rep. Andy Davis of Little Rock, said, “If the small cell technology is in place, then companies like AT&T and Verizon will look to us first to invest their dollars. We can enable a lot of quality of life with this technology.”
December 17, 2019