Cheap and easy access to California streetlights queued up in Sacramento

by Steve Blum • , , ,

It’s not the complete takeover of municipal property that mobile carriers originally wanted, but the latest published version of senate bill 649 would still require California cities and counties to allow on-demand access to street lights and other “vertical infrastructure” they own, often at a steep discount on the going market rate for leases…

A city or county shall not preclude the leasing or licensing of its vertical infrastructure located in public right-of-way or public utility easements…Vertical infrastructure shall be made available for the placement of small cells under fair and reasonable fees, terms, and conditions, which may include feasible design and collocation standards…Fees shall be tiered or flat and within a range of $100 to $850 per small cell per year, indexed for inflation…

A city or county shall not discriminate against the deployment of a small cell on property owned by the city or county and shall make space available on property not located in the public right-of-way under terms and conditions that are no less favorable than the terms and conditions under which the space is made available for comparable commercial projects or uses. These installations shall be subject to reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates, terms, and conditions, which may include feasible design and collocation standards.

Under current federal and state law, cities have more or less complete control over how they lease out poles, towers and other vertical assets they own and how much they charge. AT&T, Verizon and mobile industry lobbyists wrote SB 649 and recruited senator Ben Hueso (D – San Diego) to carry it for them.

It sailed through the senate’s energy, utilities and communications committee, which Hueso chairs, but ran into headwinds in the governance and finance committee, which deals more closely with local governments. Industry demands were trimmed back during closed door negotiations just before that committee voted, but even as amended SB 649 still faces heavy opposition from local governments.

Next stop is the senate appropriation committee, which is scheduled to hear the bill on Monday.