Jul 21 2020

Piedmont Opposes New FCC Rules Regarding Wireless Communications

City of Piedmont Joins a Coalition to Oppose FCC Wireless Communications Facilities Rule

At its meeting on July 20, 2020, the Piedmont City Council joined a coalition to oppose new Federal Communications Commission rules regarding wireless communications facilities. The new rule, approved by the FCC on June 9, 2020 significantly reduces the already limited decision making power held by local governments to minimize the impact of wireless communication facilities on their communities.

“We believe there are ways for wireless communication devices to be deployed in an aesthetically appropriate manner. Unfortunately, the FCC seems intent on making that much more difficult, if not impossible,” said Kevin Jackson, Director of Planning and Building. “So unless there is a court-ordered injunction, the new FCC rules will further reduce Piedmont’s ability to control the installation of wireless communication facilities.”

Section 6409 of the Spectrum Act requires a city like Piedmont to approve an “eligible facilities request” for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not “substantially change” the physical dimensions of such tower or base station.

The FCC has changed the definition of “substantial change,” as well as other important changes. Changes in the new Eligible Facilities order include, but are not limited to:

  •  The 60-day shot clock is now triggered when the applicant takes the first procedural steps, giving the city less time to review for the compliance with the City’s codes.
  • The definition of concealment has been narrowed so that concealment is only “stealth” design, e.g. look like something other than a wireless tower or base station. Now under the new FCC order, concealment of a facility at a specific location would not include screening by a rooftop or placement behind a tree line or fence.
  • In addition, the FCC order specifies that aesthetic requirements originally imposed as conditions of approval, such as vegetation cover, fencing, screening, and similar requirements will not be grounds to deny an expressly allowed height or size increase.
  • The order allows the installation of additional antenna up to 20 feet, plus there is no cap to the height of new antenna, for towers outside the public right-of-way.
  • On an existing structure such as a utility pole, the FCC made modifications to the number of equipment cabinets that can be installed per an eligible facilities request.

For more information, please contact Director of Planning and Building Kevin Jackson at kjackson@piedmont.ca.gov.

Leave a Comment