Opposed by more than 215 cities and dozens of counties, this legislation would virtually eliminate the authority of cities and counties to negotiate with telecommunications companies on the siting of wireless equipment in the public right-of-way and on public infrastructure. SB 649 would also cap the lease rates far below market rate, on public infrastructure. The leaders held a press conference this morning in Fresno at the Cultural Arts District Park.
Cities and counties support advances in technology, unique and diverse neighborhoods, businesses and closing the digital divide. They also have the authority to work with telecommunication companies to advance modern technology through an established discretionary permitting process, and many are doing so. Local governments are responsible for updating local zoning codes to reflect land use changes, based on the evolution of local neighborhoods and residents’ needs. Discretionary control of local land use decisions is critical to preserving and supporting the unique identities of California's diverse communities. The bill has widespread opposition because it erodes local land use control, and subsidizes the telecommunications industry at the expense of our local neighborhoods.
SB 649 would give the wireless giants virtually limitless ability to install antennas, wireless boosters, and other equipment wherever they want — on any publicly owned street light, traffic-signal pole, or any wood poles with electricity, cable, or telephone lines attached. The bill would shortchange taxpayers, and disproportionately hurt those living in rural and inland communities by increasing the Digital Divide, while stripping power from inland and rural local leaders. Meanwhile, Californians would still pay the same high prices for their wireless services.
Each of the speakers urged the Legislature to listen to the opposition and reject SB 649.
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand:
“SB 649 is an end-run around dozens of local agreements between wireless companies and local governments around the state. It removes rules that require telecom companies to upgrade their service in rural and inland communities. Stripping away these requirements could be disastrous for businesses and residents in less affluent areas, who could see their cell phone service stagnate, while upgrades happen only in more prosperous areas.”
Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes: “
I know how important it is to be “connected” in this day and age — especially in rural communities. This bill does nothing to improve internet or cellular phone access in our rural and underserved communities. It lets the telecom companies decide where and how to install their equipment and it limits local input and local revenue at the same time. This is a bad bill, and I am urging our local legislators to vote against it.”
Fresno City Council Member Oliver Baines: “
SB 649 hands over the public’s right-of-way for use by private companies. This will increase blight across our communities. Even though the public may not want cell phone towers in their front yard, they would have no recourse to stop it if SB 649 becomes law. Local citizens and elected officials would be rendered powerless to stop companies from placing whatever equipment they want, wherever they want.”
Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle:
“Not only does SB 649 silence our residents on where wireless equipment is placed on public infrastructure, it would also be financially devastating to communities up and down California. Under SB 649, that amount is capped at a mere $250 annually per installation. So city budgets and services are at risk as telecommunications giants make profits off using our lights, traffic signals and city buildings to put up their equipment.”
Dr. Jonathan L. Kramer, Local Government Attorney and Wireless Engineer, Telecom Law Firm, P.C. brought a life-size model to show how large this equipment is in reality.
Elected city officials from throughout the Fresno region joined the speakers at the podium including:
- Clovis Mayor Bob Whalen;
- Clovis Mayor Pro Tem Drew Bessinger;
- Clovis Council Member Vong Mouanoutoua;
- Clovis City Manager Luke Serpa;
- Firebaugh Council Member Freddy Valdez;
- Firebaugh City Manager Ben Gallegos;
- Fresno Chief Information Officer Bryon Horn;
- Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever;
- Hanford IT Director Eric Forcey;
- Reedley Community Development Director Rob Terry; and
- Visalia Community Development Director Nick Mascia.