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DeKalb City Council adopts 5G wireless tech ordinance

July 24, 2018

DeKALB – The City Council on Monday joined many cities around the country in adopting new rules on 5G wireless technology, because as is the case in other cities, it’s either pass a local law or give wireless providers veritable carte blanche.

In April, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1451 to help make Illinois more competitive for businesses and foster advanced technology. The bill helps local governments retain their authority in zoning, planning and land use.

But as City Attorney Dean Frieders explained, municipal failure to enact ordinances works to the detriment of cities.

The Sycamore City Council unanimously approved its ordinance July 16.

Compared with 4G wireless technology, “small cell technology is, as the name implies, smaller size equipment [and] a shorter range that can be installed in areas of higher traffic density or higher population density,” Frieders said.

New 5G technology is designed to work well in denser populations and provide better reliability, service and bandwidth. Except as DeKalb was examining how the new technology ordinances would be implemented, “the small cell wireless companies that were in this market realized that they were going to have that same approach from every community they run into,” Frieders said.

“Those companies, instead of proceeding in a fashion of working with individual municipalities, went to the state, and they asked the state to pass legislation that gave them far greater access to the marketplace,” he continued. “In essence, what that act indicates is that if local units of government do not take action to regulate small wireless facilities, they [telecommunications companies] are de facto allowed to install the facilities in public rights of way.”

Frieders said the city consulted the Illinois Municipal League, which he said, “vigorously opposed” this legislation because it’s a significant restriction of local authority.

The city’s measure includes the maximum amount of permit and licensure fees the state law permits.

“It represents the most comprehensive regulatory approach that we can take,” he said. “The challenge in coming forward with this ordinance is, we’re aware of what happens if we don’t pass this legislation. What the statute specifically says is in the absence of an ordinance regulating small cell … wireless providers may co-locate small wireless facilities and install utility poles under the requirements of the act.

“Unfortunately, the way the act was passed takes away a lot of flexibility from us.”

The council unanimously waived a second reading on the measure.

“It sounds like something that we really … it’s almost a defensive posture,” Mayor Jerry Smith said. “If we don’t pass this, we really are leaving ourselves apparently open to some serious stuff.”

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