Western cities line up against FCC muni property grab

30 October 2018 by Steve Blum
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There must be something in the salt air coming off the Pacific Ocean. Only local agencies on or (relatively) near the west coast asked a federal appeals court to block the Federal Communication Commission’s decision to preempt local ownership of streetlights and other municipal property that’s planted in the public right of way. Contrary to my prediction, the rest of the U.S. is sitting it out. I checked the websites of the federal appeals courts around the country, and didn’t find any new challenges.

Twenty-two cities, two counties and three state-level League of Cities organisations joined the three lawsuits filed in the San Francisco-based ninth circuit court of appeals last week. The roll of honor is…

  • City of Yuma, Arizona
  • League of Arizona Cities and Towns
  • City of Arcadia, California
  • City of Burlingame, California
  • City of Culver City, California
  • City of Huntington Beach, California
  • City of Los Angeles, California
  • City of Monterey, California
  • City of Ontario, California
  • City of Piedmont, California
  • City of San Jacinto, California
  • City of San Jose, California
  • City of Shafter, California
  • Los Angeles County, California
  • Town of Fairfax, California
  • League of California Cities
  • City of Las Vegas, Nevada
  • City of Portland, Oregon
  • League of Oregon Cities
  • City of Bellevue, Washington
  • City of Burien, Washington
  • City of Gig Harbor, Washington
  • City of Issaquah, Washington
  • City of Kirkland, Washington
  • City of Seattle, Washington
  • City of Tacoma, Washington
  • King County, Washington

I did find one more telco that jumped on the greedy wagon: the Puerto Rico Telephone Company joined AT&T and Sprint in asking appeals courts to automatically give them the privilege of hanging their equipment on poles – whether they own them or not – if a city takes too long to process a permit application. Those petitions were filed in Boston, the District of Columbia and Denver, respectively.

It’ll take a few days, maybe a week or two, for the federal court system to decide if and where the cases will be heard together. Harold Feld has an excellent explanation of how that works here. It might ultimately be done by a lottery, or by mutual agreement or it’s possible that the telcos’ appeals will be heard separately from the local agency ones.

Links to the all the petitions and background documents are here.