The 10 a.m. press conference brought together cities, counties, labor and AARP and attracted the attention of newspapers and television stations statewide. Previous press conferences were held in Long Beach and Fresno in the weeks prior to the Legislature’s adjournment.
League President JoAnne Mounce spoke on behalf of the cities that have opposed SB 649. “Since taking office in 2011, Governor Brown has talked a lot about local control and giving local residents more discretion to make decisions that serve their community. This bill does the opposite, muzzling local voices and handing control over to wireless companies who are only accountable to their shareholders. This bill deserves to be vetoed,” said Mounce.
Cities Urged to Ask Governor to Veto SB 649
The Governor has until Oct. 15 to make decisions on legislation sent to him this legislative session. The veto request on SB 649 is one of the League’s top priorities coming out of the 2017 legislative session.
The League has issued its veto request and cities are encouraged to submit a veto request letter to the Governor as soon as possible.
The League’s letter, along with a sample letter cities can use are available at www.cacities.org/billsearch
by plugging SB 649 into the search function.
Cities Don’t Oppose Technology, but Policies Proposed in Bill
The League remained opposed to SB 649 throughout the entire session because amendments taken to the measure failed to address local governments’ concerns. The bill at its core seeks to eliminate public input, eliminate reasonable local environmental and design review, mandate the forced leasing of publicly owned infrastructure, and eliminate the ability for local governments to negotiate fair leases or any public benefit for the installation of “small cell” wireless equipment on taxpayer-funded property. The industry repeatedly claims that this equipment is necessary to implement 5G technology, however that technology is years away from deployment, while the term “5G” is never mentioned in the bill.
By removing local discretion and mandating a ministerial process, SB 649 would effectively eliminate local residents and businesses from having fair input over the character of their own communities. Most troubling is that it would shift authority from the community and its elected officials to for-profit corporations for wireless equipment installations that can have significant health, safety, and aesthetic impacts when those companies have little, if any, interests to respect these concerns that potentially conflict with their profit margins.
Local elected officials play a critical role in balancing the important needs of their community and respect for its character with the need to close the existing/widening digital divide and ensure that the many benefits from state-of-the-art wireless technology are available to all. Local residents and businesses expect their local governments to be equipped to respond when they have legitimate concerns, especially as they relate to the location and design of these installations near or adjacent to their property.
Under SB 649, the wireless industry would gain the ability to install equipment, about the size of a twin bed, on city streetlights, traffic signals and stop signs as well as on municipal buildings. The industry would also have authority to put equipment about the size of a commercial refrigerator on the ground for each provider on every pole. The bill contains exclusions for at least eight “ancillary” pieces of equipment that have no size or quantity limitations. SB 649 gives the industry the ability to install equipment that is far larger than the claimed “pizza box” size “small cell” site.
SB 649 would force local governments to give telecom companies access to taxpayer-funded public property to install their equipment to sell their private services. By eliminating fair market rate leases for use of taxpayer funded property (including city halls, parks, county libraries, and “vertical infrastructure”), this bill would in essence give the wireless industry discounted access to these facilities with no requirement to pass their cost-savings onto their customers. The bill caps the amount local agencies would receive for the use of their infrastructure at $250 per year per site, which is far below fair market value.
Newspapers throughout California editorialized in opposition to SB 649 including:
- Los Angeles Times, An audacious 5G power (pole) grab, July 5, 2017
- Sacramento Bee, Democratic legislators take bold stands, except when they don’t, July 9, 2017
- San Francisco Chronicle, California lawmakers must reject telecoms’ cell phone power grab, June 27, 2017
- San Jose Mercury News, California should butt out of cities’ dealings with telecom companies using public facilities, July 11, 2017