Wireless broadband facilities get an express lane in California

12 October 2015 by Steve Blum
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On Friday, California governor Jerry Brown signed assembly bill 57 into law, which puts a limit on the delays local agencies can throw up in front of wireless broadband facilities. A city or a county now has 150 days to either find a reason to say no to an application for new wireless infrastructure, such as a cell tower, or grant the permit. For collocation of new gear on existing towers, the deadline is 90 days. If it takes longer (not including exceptions for notices and limited requests for more information), then the permit is automatically deemed approved. Unless the agency decides to go to court to try to block it.

There’s not a lot of room for a local government in California to turn down an application from a wireless broadband company – fixed or mobile – to build a new tower or install new equipment on an existing one. There are some basic aesthetic or safety requirements a city or county can impose (but not related to nonsensical tin foil hat fears of radio waves), and a pro forma environmental clearance process, but the scope for saying no is strictly limited.

So city councils, boards of supervisors and their staff have had few options if they don’t like the proposed wireless broadband facilities, or if they want to cater to Nimbys with a similar outlook. One option used to be to simply delay decisions. Governmental processes are complicated at best and can be completely impenetrable if someone on the inside wants to block something, or if someone on the outside wants to throw sand in the gears.

Starting in January, when AB 57 takes effect, there will be no more playing for time.