The legislature is discussing a number of broadband-related topics. HF739/SF561 looks at creating a statewide policy to allow wireless companies to put their small cell equipment in public spaces. Right now a provider must work with the local government when they want to collocate equipment and the local government and charges a fee. The providers would like to streamline the process. Minnesota is not the only state looking at the issue – several states are. The last I heard (at a House Committee meeting), the League of Minnesota Cities and providers were trying to find a solution to meet all needs.
The Duluth News Tribune has posted an editorial on the issue…
“The deployment of small cells is one way providers can meet the demands on the network and also prepare for the next generation of wireless technologies called 5G,” Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Ross wrote in February in a letter urging lawmakers to find agreement on new measures. “This legislation will help enhance the wireless networks that Minnesota businesses rely upon to grow their companies and attract new investment.”
“These are the future,” AT&T Minnesota President Paul Weirtz said of small cells in an interview last week with the News Tribune editorial board. “The argument is if we can get some parameters as to how to deploy this over the 854 communities in Minnesota, just some standards around that, it’s going to get those antennas employed sooner. And that’s going to help bring that 5G wireless coverage quicker to Minnesota.”
The parameters the Legislature needs to determine — and, encouragingly, it’s working with providers, the League of Minnesota Cities and others to do so — include how much cities receive in rent, or rates, for small cells on traffic signals and in public right-of-ways. That varies widely right now. In cities in Ohio, it’s $200 per year, for example. In Indiana, cities charge $50 a year, according to Weirtz.
But in Duluth, he said, the reported rate runs $6,000 annually.
Clearly, Internet providers right now aren’t getting the consistent and fair rates they deserve and for which they can plan and with which they can do their work.
“We’re not seeing these rates anywhere else in the country,” Weirtz said of Duluth’s. “The legislation we’re hoping to do would put some common sense around a statewide rate structure. We don’t know what that number is going to be, but, you know, we’re hoping it’s south of $6,000.”