Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FROM PAGE ONE -

self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles, im­proved com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween am­bu­lances and hos­pi­tals, and smarter tim­ing of traf­fic lights.

Wire­less sig­nals cur­rently con­nect from a smart­phone to a tall wire­less tower up to a mile or two away. The new small cell fa­cil­i­ties are placed much closer to­gether — ev­ery few blocks — to en­able sig­nals to move through the net­work more quickly. Wire­less com­pa­nies say that in the short term, small cell fa­cil­i­ties will re­lieve conges­tion on the cur­rent 4G net­works. And they even­tu­ally will be used to roll out the 5G net­work.

So far, only a hand­ful of phone mod­els can con­nect to 5G net­works; no Ap­ple iPhones are com­pat­i­ble with 5G, for in­stance. And 5G ser­vice is avail­able only in se­lect parts of a few cities. In Bal­ti­more, the only place to tap into 5G tech­nol­ogy is at M&T Bank Sta­dium, where Ver­i­zon is of­fer­ing 5G for its cus­tomers with com­pat­i­ble phones.

An­tic­i­pat­ing an ever-broad­en­ing roll­out in the com­ing years, the in­dus­try is hop­ing for stan­dards that are uni­form from one county to the next, as well as low per­mit fees.

“If there’s some sim­i­lar­ity and pre­dictabil­ity in the process, then we can bet­ter fore­cast and scale our de­ploy­ments,” said Richard Rothrock, a lob­by­ist for Crown Cas­tle, a Hous­ton-based com­pany that builds the tow­ers for wire­less car­ri­ers.

David Weiss­man, a Ver­i­zon spokesman, said the com­pany has been putting small cell fa­cil­i­ties on light poles, util­ity poles and rooftops around the coun­try since 2013 and will an­nounce plans for 5G ser­vice in 30 cities by the end of the year.

“As we’re de­ploy­ing 4G small cells and 5G, and you’re go­ing from city to city to state to state, the more uni­for­mity the bet­ter,” he said.

But lo­cal gov­ern­ments in Mary­land and else­where are seek­ing to pro­tect their au­thor­ity over what hap­pens in their com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially in rights of way along streets where com­pa­nies want to place equip­ment. The coun­ties and cities want to be able to set rules and fees, as they do with other struc­tures.

“Coun­ties re­ally want in­no­va­tion. They want to ad­vance tech­nol­ogy and make sure their com­mu­ni­ties have ad­vance­ments when it comes to cel­lu­lar cov­er­age and net­work ser­vices,” said Natasha Mehu, leg­isla­tive di­rec­tor for the Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties.

“How­ever, we are very con­cerned with en­sur­ing that what­ever moves for­ward has lo­cal gov­ern­ment and com­mu­nity in­put,” Mehu said.

The is­sue of 5G echoes ear­lier strug­gles over the need to bal­ance emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies with con­cerns about how those tech­nolo­gies will al­ter com­mu­ni­ties — such as de­bates over where to per­mit so­lar pan­els and wind tur­bines.

The Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion or­dered lo­cal gov­ern­ments to set up per­mit­ting pro­grams and al­low the small cell fa­cil­i­ties. The or­der, which went into ef­fect in Jan­uary, re­quires lo­cal gov­ern­ments to turn around ap­provals within 60 to 90 days and lim­its per­mit fees to a range of $100 to $500.

FCC Chair­man Ajit Pai said the move was nec­es­sary to push lo­cal gov­ern­ments “that are un­rea­son­ably stand­ing in the way of wire­less in­fra­struc­ture de­ploy­ment.”

Dozens of city and county gov­ern­ments across the coun­try have chal­lenged the FCC or­der in court, but it re­mains in ef­fect while the lit­i­ga­tion plays out.

In the city of An­napo­lis, where there are height­ened aes­thetic con­cerns in the down­town his­toric district, of­fi­cials haven’t set reg­u­la­tions yet. But Demo­cratic Mayor Gavin Buck­ley re­cently at­tended a con­fer­ence where he learned how other his­toric cities are deal­ing with small cell fa­cil­i­ties.

“It’s com­ing, and we will need to find a way to ac­com­mo­date it,” he said.

Prince Ge­orge’s County is tack­ling the is­sue. The county coun­cil is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing a reg­u­la­tory bill.

“This is new ter­ri­tory for ev­ery­body,” said Gina Ford, a spokes­woman for County Ex­ec­u­tive An­gela Al­so­brooks, a Demo­crat.

“The county is work­ing on try­ing to en­sure that we com­ply with the [FCC] man­date,” Ford said. “We’re try­ing to find our best path for­ward, un­der­stand­ing this is the fu­ture of tech­nol­ogy.”

The bill pend­ing in Prince Ge­orge’s would set lim­its on the size and place­ment of fa­cil­i­ties. It also would cre­ate a com­mit­tee within county gov­ern­ment to rec­om­mend ways com­pa­nies can “mit­i­gate the vis­ual im­pact.” And com­pa­nies would have to mail a no­tice to ad­ja­cent prop­erty own­ers as well as nearby civic as­so­ci­a­tions.

The Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil passed a bill this year lay­ing out de­sign guide­lines for small cell fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing height and size lim­its and rules about us­ing graf­fiti-re­sis­tant fin­ishes and not harm­ing street trees.

Ver­i­zon and AT&T have ap­plied for per­mis­sion to in­stall fa­cil­i­ties, and county of­fi­cials are re­view­ing those ap­pli­ca­tions, said Sean Naron, a county spokesman.

Crown Cas­tle, which has in­stalled small cell fa­cil­i­ties on be­half of wire­less car­ri­ers in Bal­ti­more, and oth­ers in the in­dus­try say they want to be part­ners with lo­cal gov­ern­ments in fig­ur­ing out is­sues of where to put small cell fa­cil­i­ties.

“We’re not try­ing to im­pose any­thing,” said Matt Mandel, vice pres­i­dent of the Wire­less In­fra­struc­ture As­so­ci­a­tion. “We see the lo­cal­i­ties as part­ners in all this.”

In Bal­ti­more, of­fi­cials be­gan work­ing with cell com­pa­nies on the an­ten­nas in 2010, and in 2015, the mayor and City Coun­cil be­gan re­quir­ing le­gal agree­ments be­tween the city and the com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to Vic­tor K. Ter­vala, a chief solic­i­tor for the city. Ear­lier this year, the city’s Plan­ning Com­mis­sion cre­ated guide­lines for aes­thet­ics of the tow­ers.

Crown Cas­tle said it has worked with city ad­min­is­tra­tors, in­clud­ing his­toric preser­va­tion of­fi­cials in some neigh­bor­hoods, to de­sign un­ob­tru­sive struc­tures, gen­er­ally on re­place­ment light poles.

In 2020, Ter­vala ex­pects five com­pa­nies will be in­stalling small cell fa­cil­i­ties in Bal­ti­more, with some of­fer­ing 5G ser­vice to cus­tomers with com­pat­i­ble phones.

In Ocean City, the com­pany worked with town of­fi­cials to in­stall dozens of small cell fa­cil­i­ties on lamp posts, and some in­clude high-def­i­ni­tion sur­veil­lance cam­eras that pub­lic safety agen­cies can use.

In Anne Arundel County, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of County Ex­ec­u­tive Steuart Pittman cre­ated a work group to hash out de­tails be­fore draft­ing a bill that was passed Mon­day by the County Coun­cil.

“We’ve been strug­gling with it for a while now,” said Peter Baron, gov­ern­ment af­fairs di­rec­tor for Pittman, a Demo­crat.

“The in­dus­try and con­sumers are go­ing to want 5G, and we want to make sure we have the strong­est abil­ity to reg­u­late the place­ment and per­mit­ting of these de­vices,” Baron said.

Anne Arundel’s bill re­quires com­pa­nies in­stalling small cell fa­cil­i­ties to send notices via cer­ti­fied mail to all prop­erty own­ers within 250 feet, at least 60 days be­fore in­stal­la­tion. The bill also re­quires the county to set de­sign stan­dards gov­ern­ing de­tails such as how high the fa­cil­i­ties can rise above a light pole and whether they fit in with the neigh­bor­hood.

In vot­ing for the bill, Anne Arundel Coun­cil­woman Amanda Fiedler said it was im­por­tant for the county to be able to ex­er­cise con­trol over the fa­cil­i­ties to avoid bulky, unattrac­tive de­vices.

“For me, I think it’s very im­por­tant that this county has some say in re­frig­er­a­tors ver­sus some­thing aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing that blends in with the com­mu­ni­ties,” said Fiedler, a Repub­li­can who rep­re­sents Sev­erna Park and Broad­neck.

The wire­less in­dus­try ar­gues that 5G net­works will be a driver of eco­nomic growth, fos­ter­ing in­no­va­tion that can bring jobs. And they say com­mu­ni­ties that more quickly per­mit in­stal­la­tion of small cell fa­cil­i­ties will see quicker roll­out of bet­ter ser­vice.

“Cities and coun­ties in ar­eas that have a process that makes it more stream­lined to site small cells are go­ing to see more in­vest­ment from car­ri­ers and oth­ers for 5G,” said Mandel of the Wire­less In­fra­struc­ture As­so­ci­a­tion.

The wire­less in­dus­try sought some cer­tainty by hav­ing a bill in­tro­duced in this year’s Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion to set statewide stan­dards. The coun­ties had their own plan. Davis, who is chair­man of the Eco­nomic Mat­ters Com­mit­tee, shelved the bill sup­ported by the tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies after see­ing the two sides were too far apart to re­solve the is­sue dur­ing the 90-day ses­sion.

Mehu, from the Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties, said her group was de­fend­ing coun­ties’ rights to con­trol zon­ing and land use. She said the in­dus­try’s bill had a pro­vi­sion that if a county didn’t process a per­mit fast enough, it would be ap­proved au­to­mat­i­cally. That was un­ac­cept­able to county gov­ern­ments.

“What the statewide bill did last year was go over and try to pre­empt what very lit­tle au­thor­ity the coun­ties had left,” she said.

She said statewide needed.

It’s not clear whether the de­bate will re­turn to An­napo­lis for the 2020 ses­sion. Since the last ses­sion ended in April, more coun­ties have passed their own rules to al­low the small cell fa­cil­i­ties.

Davis said his com­mit­tee will give a bill se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion only if the in­dus­try and the coun­ties first work to­ward a com­pro­mise.

“I don’t want to waste any­body’s time if they’re not go­ing to move,” he said. leg­is­la­tion isn’t


A small cell tower is at­tached to a light pole along Light Street in down­town Bal­ti­more.

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