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  • By Lisa Brody

Township board opposes state telecom bills

Bloomfield Township trustees unanimously passed a resolution opposing two state Senate bills which would severely limit municipal authority regarding the location, size, height, and approval and fees for poles, antennas and other equipment for wireless telecommunication and cable/video service facilities in public road rights-of-way, at their meeting on Monday, October 22.

Township supervisor Leo Savoie explained that two bills, Senate Bill (SB) 637 and SB 894, were passed in late May 2018, and have passed out of committee in the state House, to “give the telecom carriers carte blanche to operate in the rights of way without any approvals of municipalities. They want this to upgrade their DOS, their new 5G, systems. It would allow telephone poles that communicate every 400 to 500 feet.

“Once you allow one carrier on site, you have to allow all of the carriers,” he said.

According to the Michigan legislature, Senate Bill 637 would create the Small Wireless Communications Facilities Deployment Act, and Senate Bill 894 would amend the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to subject zoning ordinances to the proposed new act. Senate Bill 637 would allow “wireless services providers and wireless infrastructure providers access to the public rights-of-way and the ability to attach to poles and structures in the public rights-of-way to enhance their networks and provide next generation services.” Further, it would prohibit an authority, such as a municipality, “from prohibiting, regulating, or charging for the collections of small cell wireless facilities.”

“That means all franchise agreements and fees will go away,” Savoie said. Communities receive franchise agreements, fees and public, educational and government (PEG) fees for providing channels for public, education, and / or government access.

The bill would also allow “an authority to require a permit to co-locate a small cell wireless facility or install, modify, or replace a utility pole on which a small cell wireless facility would be co-located if the permit were of general applicability,” which Savoie said could be as large as a small refrigerator.

Bill 894 would amend the zoning ordinance for small wireless communications facilities.

The purpose of the bills, which are tie-barred, is to “increase investment in wireless networks that will benefit the citizens of the state by providing better access to emergency services, advanced technology, and information.”

“The telecom and cable companies have said they need to this to stay economically relevant,” Savoie said. “It's a smokescreen. They will go to densely-populated communities where they can make a lot of money.

“I understand that the (state) House will vote on this (the two bills) two days after the election during lame duck, and it has enough votes to pass,” he continued, noting the importance of the board noting their objection in a resolution. Savoie said most of Oakland County communities have, or are, passing resolutions to oppose the bills.

“I commend you on your work on this Leo,” trustee Dave Buckley said. “It's not just the money issue. It's the right-of-way issue.”

“If this passes, I recommend that the communities join together and hire an experienced attorney and go to federal court,” said township attorney Bill Hampton. “They're taking right-of-way property.”

Trustees voted 7-0 in support of the resolution.

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