Beyond the Tipping Point: What has Happened Since Wireless Guidelines Changed

To satisfy the rapidly growing demand for wireless broadband, wireless carriers are aggressively expanding their network capacity. In addition, a number of municipalities are moving forward with Smart City initiatives, accelerated plans for autonomous vehicles and a growing list of IoT products and applications. These initiatives continue to add to the demand for more wireless network capacity.

Wireless Smart Cities


The best solution is to deploy small cells and distributed antenna systems (DAS). While the equipment for these sites is smaller and less obtrusive, they must be deployed more densely – i.e.: more locations – to function effectively.

Last October we published a blog that addressed the importance of densifying wireless networks in the right-of-way (ROW), at public venues and in buildings where people live and work. Reflecting on the federal statute House Bill 2131 adopted by the Kansas Legislature on October 1, 2016, we’re taking a deeper look to see what has changed since the legislation went into effect.

For a quick refresh on Kansas HB2131, here is an excerpt from the first few paragraphs:

“The permitting, construction, modification, maintenance and operation of wireless facilities are critical to ensuring that all citizens in the state have true access to broadband and other advanced technology and information…these facilities are critical to ensuring that businesses and schools throughout the state to remain competitive in the global economy….”

This bill was another step in a multi-year process by the federal government designed to promote the prompt deployment of small cells and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) by significantly limiting local authority. The bill provides that municipalities cannot require any zoning or other approval, consent, permit or otherwise “prohibit or restrain” the deployment of wireless sites. Municipalities still possess rights over the placement, aesthetics, construction, modification and maintenance of the sites. But, they are no longer allowed to prohibit wireless sites based on the outdated guidelines from the past, i.e.: moratoriums. In addition, they must review and act upon a siting application within 60, 90 or 150 days depending on the siting scenario and/or configuration.

So, what has happened since the bill was passed? On the local front, the City of Shawnee changed its Wireless Smart CitiesROW code limiting the height of wireless sites to 60 feet. On the national level, the Ohio Legislature passed Senate Bill 331 on December 19th. That bill is identical to the Kansas bill. All municipalities in Ohio are now required to implement these guidelines. The consensus is that similar bills will be passed in other states in 2017 as the Federal Government continues its legislative initiative to speed-up the deployment of wireless sites.

The opportunity which many municipalities may be overlooking is the potential revenue from an exponential increase in wireless sites in the ROW. Revenue from site leases, siting application processing fees, permit fees and post deployment inspections could be significant. In addition, recovering costs associated with construction or repair caused by deployment firms could also be significant. An increase in revenues generated from telecom carriers can be a reality and municipalities should take advantage of the opportunity.

Author Malcom Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, a book that captures where our municipalities are with respect to telecom regulations. In the text he states, “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Municipalities will significantly benefit from reaching this tipping point. We hope they will be proactive in adapting to these changes and take the opportunity to be a key contributor in the densification of wireless networks.

The challenge is that most municipalities will need to change the way they operate to handle the increased number of applications and operational activities that go along with them. In our previous wireless blog, we proposed four proactive steps that municipalities should consider. Over the next few months, we will present these steps to several municipalities and get their feedback.

Let us know your thoughts! If you have any comments or input on the new wireless guidelines, take a few minutes to let us know.

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