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Planning For Wireless Towers

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With over $20 billion being spent by wireless carriers for the privilege of operating public frequencies, it’s no surprise the industry is attempting to gain quick approvals of their new tower sites to begin offering service to the public. And it is understandable when major wireless telecommunication companies sue local governmental agencies for passing moratoria on new tower site applications while they take a look at their applicable regulatory codes.

What can planning agencies do, given the provisions of the 1996 Telecommunications Act which strongly favor the growth of the wireless communications industry?

Many communities, in consultation with their legal counsel, are developing or modifying zoning ordinances to ensure local review consistent with the requirements of the Telecommunications Act. Not as often focused on, but in the long-run even more beneficial, is strong county or regional planning for the siting of cellular towers. This is best done through a collaborative effort involving all parties interested in the issue — public and private.

Role of County & Regional Planning

County and regional planning agencies are well-situated to assist communities in making sure that new cellular towers are planned to minimize negative impacts. Given that cellular providers plan their networks from a regional (and broader) perspective, it makes sense for the public to plan for the siting of telecommunications facilities at the same scale — instead of each locality seeking to plan for tower siting independently of neighboring communities. …

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