States and regions that want to stay in the vanguard of economic growth need to expand their broadband infrastructure. Mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold between 2012 and 2017 by some estimates. To accommodate that growth, the wireless industry will have to build new cell towers, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and other infrastructure. However, permitting and regulation is a big problem in many states, according to George state Sen. Judson Hill.

Writes Hill in The Hill:

New tower construction and collocations of antennas on existing sites helps local economies. New towers typically cost between $250,000 and $300,000, and collocations run upward from $25,000. Moreover, new 4G wireless broadband networks support local job growth and improve economic vitality. Economists Robert Shapiro and Kevin Hassett found in their recent study that “every 10 percent increase in the adoption of 3G and 4G wireless technologies could add more than 231,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy in less than a year.”

Unfortunately, differing, cumbersome and unnecessarily complex local government permit processes have impeded investment and construction of new wireless facilities infrastructure in many states. Denials or long delays in approving permits for new cell towers or antenna collocations have been the experience for countless wireless infrastructure providers. Public safety communications challenges and lost economic opportunities, including foregone job creation, are regrettable byproducts of these denials and delays.

Georgia law requires local governments to issue timely permits — within 150 days — and ends the practice of imposing excessive processing fees. He concludes: “States should proactively pursue regulatory and tax reforms to remove roadblocks to wireless infrastructure facility construction. Greater economic and public safety benefits will come to states that best position themselves to enhance their 4G wireless broadband network build-out.

Bacon’s bottom line: How does Virginia stand when it comes to cell tower permitting? Hill suggests that Georgia, Missouri and Washington are the only states that have addressed these issues legislatively so far — but maybe Virginia doesn’t have a problem that needs fixing. Or maybe it does. Does anyone know?


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2 responses to “Does Virginia Want to Be a Wireless Friendly State?”

  1. larryg Avatar

    Locally, we approve towers easily and summarily with any public hearing speakers almost always being cheer-leaders.

    … except for one – where the county wanted to abandon a water tower with co-location on it – and the subdivision nearby was not having any of it because the new tower was not wanted in close proximity to the subdivision. Out in the rural areas – the reverse is true. They want the towers because it’s the only internet they have -no cable.

  2. In 1996, Congress passed and Clinton signed legislation that controls local government regulation of cell tower citing. Valid zoning concerns can still be considered, but zoning cannot be used as a effective barrier to construction of necessary towers. Congress also banned health arguments so long as the equipment meets FCC standards, which are reviewed periodically. The FCC has also established a shot clock to prevent local government from siting on applications.

    Legitimate zoning concerns can still be addressed. I don’t see a need for state legislation.

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