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Senate considers guides for implementation of 5G wireless network

Special to the Legal News

Published: March 19, 2018

A committee in the Ohio Senate heard testimony recently in support of a revamped infrastructure bill meant to guide small cell tower placement on existing street lamps and utility poles in public rights-of-way.

An integral piece of Buckeye Pathway legislation, the bill - filed as Substitute House Bill 478 - would govern the process of upgrading wireless telecommunications networks in anticipation of the introduction of the 5G network.

The bill presumably would remedy a conflicted piece of legislation enacted last year after lower courts concluded it violated the state's single subject rule.

"Rather than merely passing the same language as a standalone bill, we asked the wireless industry and the municipalities to see if they could resolve their differences, so we can pass a law that will remove the uncertainty caused by the litigation and spur the investment and innovation as was originally intended," Republican Ryan Smith of Gallipolis said during a first hearing before the senate committee.

A coalition of representatives from more than 90 Ohio cities and villages, including elected officials, city engineers and municipal lawyers and their outside counsel, negotiated throughout the past three months with wireless industry representatives, Smith said.

"The product of that hard work is Sub. HB 478," he added. "This was truly a collaborative effort and the participants should be commended for not only their hard work but also their willingness to negotiate a solution.

"The bill before you balances the industry's need to deploy small cells in a timely manner with municipalities' legitimate interest in protecting the aesthetic character of the public way."

Smith and joint sponsor Chesterland Rep. Sarah LaTourette, also a Republican, explained the technology to members of the Public Utilities Committee.

Small-cell technology relies on low-powered antennae that are attached to streetlights and poles, primarily in public rights-of-way.

The small antennae allow for wireless networks' transmission of 5G data speeds - up to 100 time faster and five times more responsive than the current 4G networks in use today.

"This network upgrade is necessary to support emerging technologies such as remote medicine, driverless cars, and the next generation of e-commerce," LaTourette said. "The goal of Substitute HB 478 is to establish a regulatory process that will facilitate this critical network upgrade and encourage the economic growth and jobs that will come with it."

With rules in place, the wireless industry has pledged investment of $275 billion to deploy the expanded network, the lawmakers said. 5G investment is expected to generate $500 billion in economic growth, along with 3 million new jobs.

"Roughly 1 out of every 100 Americans will benefit from a new 5G job," LaTourette said. "By way of example, the industry estimates 8,025 new jobs created in Columbus; $455 million estimated GDP growth in Cincinnati; $117 million estimated network investment in Cleveland; and $81.09 million smart city benefits in Dayton.

Cleveland remains opposed to the effort primarily on the basis that the bill restricts a city's ability to regulate placement of the equipment without reasonable alternatives. The Ohio Municipal League and Dublin, however, already are on the record in support of the bill.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson also argued in written testimony that the annual reimbursement of $200 to municipalities for allowing these transmitters to be affixed to municipally owned property would be insufficient for installation and maintenance costs.

Dublin City Manager Dana McDaniel said the bill is in the best interests of all cities and villages to promote rapid deployment and implementation of new technologies.

"These residents and businesses, as we all know, also happen to be the Industry's customers," McDaniel said. "As municipalities, we appreciate the extensive investment by the private sector in these technologies and respect the associated costs of their deployment."

The bill cleared the Ohio House of Representatives on a 79-15 vote last month.

Thirty-five fellow House members have signed on as cosponsors of the bill.

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