Illinois General Assembly passes bill restricting municipalities’ ability to regulate placement of small wireless facilities

Illinois General Assembly passes bill restricting municipalities’ ability to regulate placement of small wireless facilities

The measure would limit regulations and costs local governments could impose on wireless providers seeking to locate certain equipment on municipal property.

Fast and reliable wireless internet service is increasingly important in everyday life. To that end, the Illinois General Assembly has passed a bill that would restrict municipalities’ ability to regulate the siting of equipment that facilitates wireless access.

But in an attempt to achieve greater access to wireless services, the bill tightly restricts how local governments can regulate and charge for equipment located on municipal property.

Senate Bill 1451, the “Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act,” would limit the ability of municipalities other than Chicago to impose requirements on wireless service providers that wish to locate “small wireless facilities” – communications equipment that takes up no more than 25 cubic feet (about the size of a refrigerator) with antennae that can be contained within 6 cubic feet (about the size of a mini-refrigerator) – on utility poles or other structures in public rights of way or in industrial or commercial zones.

The bill restricts how local governments can regulate small wireless facilities collocation, including by:

  • Curtailing the kinds of restrictions municipalities can impose on the “collocation” of small wireless facilities
  • Mandating the required decision-making process, setting the timeframe in which municipalities must review and render decisions on completed applications to collocate small wireless facilities, giving local governments 30 days to approve or deny an application
  • Laying out the circumstances under which an application shall be “deemed approved
  • Setting forth the minimum duration of small wireless facilities permits
  • Capping the fees municipalities can charge wireless providers to locate their equipment on municipal property, such as utility poles and streetlamps

Unsurprisingly, many local leaders are balking at Springfield telling them how their cities and counties must handle the collocation of wireless communications equipment.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said in a statement reported by the Daily Herald, “In the past year, state lawmakers have already siphoned more than $3.5 million of DuPage taxpayers’ money back to Springfield to balance their budget. … Now lawmakers want to give away our infrastructure, paid for and maintained by local taxpayers.”

Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin said the proposed law “allows private companies to have a monopoly over public infrastructure,” according to the Daily Herald, and that public utility poles could become “an eyesore” with many small wireless facilities affixed to them. Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said small is a misnomer and that the antennas are “fairly large pieces of equipment” that could “change the landscape of what our neighborhoods look like today.”

It is not clear yet whether this bill would achieve its purpose of “ensur[ing] that public and private Illinois consumers … benefit from these [wireless] services as soon as possible and … that providers of wireless access have a fair and predictable process for the deployment of small wireless facilities …”

But it is certain that many local leaders view this measure as the heavy hand of state government stripping local governments of their rightful authority over municipal property.

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