MN HF 739 small cell equipment placement permission passes in House

Yesterday I attended the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy meeting on HF739 small cell equipment placement. They have had a few meetings. It’s a contentious issue. Wireless providers want to have easier access to place small cell wireless equipment in public rights of way to facilitate deployment of 5G. Local governments do not want to give up control of local rights of way. It sounds like many hours have been spent with providers and local governments (League of MN Cities) trying to come up with a plan.
Right now wireless providers can get access – but they need to work through each communities. They want a streamlined solution – a solution that it the same for each community. But each community is different.

Minnesota is not alone with this issue. It is also being discussed by the FCC. The big questions

  • If Minnesota comes up with a plan will that stand even if the FCC comes up with a plan?
  • If Minnesota doesn’t come up with a plan will that slow down deployment of 5G?
  • If local folks lose control will that cost local communities? Will equipment become cumbersome, costly to maintain, an insurance/liability threat?
  • Why is 5G getting special treatment when other utilities don’t?

It sounds like the bone of real contention right now is the price being bandied around for access. But the bill passed with the idea that the two side would continue to work to a solution that will make both (or neither) happy.

(House Summary)

I’m on the road and trying to catch up – I took pretty complete notes below but I’m not going to proof much, especially since there’s video too…
O’Neil – this is an opportunity to make cell phones 100x faster and help rural broadband. And the super bowl is coming here so without regulatory certainty – they will bring in trucks with broadband and we won’t get 5G.
Paul Weirtz AT&T
We’ve had a lot of discussions. Negotiations have been going on for weeks. We have all given a little bit. We are invested in MN. We want to bring 5G. But we are in an arms race with others states in terms of getting provider attention.
Other states that have passed this: Iowa and Arizona.
AT&T is accelerating buildout in states that have made it to do so. This is an opportunity to accelerate in MN.
This bill is about: placement, price and process. This is bill that is generous to communities

Margaret Anderson Kelliher – MHTA
This is an important leap forward. Companies making place to use 5G – especially in medical device industry. We see this as necessary, not nice. We also see this as a tool to extend broadband.
Communities have banned 5G technologies and I can’t understand that. This is a disturbing trends so I’m glad you would take this on late in the session.

Mike McDermott Verizon
We wouldn’t be here without O’Neal – we have worked hard. 40 hours of meetings.
What do (list of cities) have in common? They are going to have 5G before anyone in MN without this legislation. We are doing a trial of 5G now. We are fine tuning our process. We have said we need regulatory clarity. The opposition will quote cost of 4G and use our sense of urgency to get more money from us. We need to put 5G in areas that
With 5G we are going to need to put equipment throughout the state. We can’t use macro-towers. We need to install small cell and are willing to invest $2 million in MN in the next few years
There’s one error regarding access to electricity.
Question: Mahoney
I’m worried about high data use areas – TC, Duluth, Rochester – but what about small towns like Elbow Lake? I’m worried in2-3 years we’ll have another broadband issue in front of us. I’m afraid rural communities are going to need subsidies from the state to get 5G. I need to know you’re not going to cherry pick.
Amanda Dueuer – MMUA
Thanks to Rep O’Neal. DE7 – MMUA is neutral because this bill now exempts municipal utilities because there can be issues that permit for exclusion.
Other cooperatives & electric utilities would also not have to adhere to the bill.
Anna Borroff – MN Cable Assn
Thanks to Rep O’Neal. We have had concern but we have read through changes and are now neutral on the bill.

Laura Ziegler MN League of Cities
Last time I was here I said we’d try to work a resolution. We have tried. We have worked for hours – and we Thank to Rep O’Neal.
We had member evaluate the bill posted yesterday and a number of provisions were not acceptable to them. Our members are passionate. The language is an improvement.
There have been some misconceptions and I’d like to detail those.
Compromised on:
Small cells in permitted use

We think wireless agreement should be negotiated at local level. One big issue is giving special access to public rights of way to one industry
Section 7.1 – cities may need more info
8.1 allows even smaller equipment to be added – cities need time to investigate
8.27 – again we need to be able to negotiate at local level.
14.29 Reference to third party contractors – why can providers use third parties but cities can’t? We should have the same rights.
In respect to annual fee – we don’t want fixed costs in the bills because they fluctuate. We offered $200/month plus a list of costs (electricity et al). $25 for maintenance will not be sufficient.
Steve Albrecht – Public Works
Thanks to partners in wireless industry. We are all supportive of wireless technology but we are concerned with details.
This provides preferential treatment over other utilities. We have never denied a permit in Burnsville.

Fair costs will push costs off to tax payers.
Adequate protection for residents. Residential zoning is public rights of way, which means someone could put equipment in front of your house.
It exempts them from getting permits for maintenance. Maintenance usually include shutting down streets et al. And especially for planned maintenance we’d like to include that.

Steve Husser – Metro Cities
We strongly oppose DE7 am

Caps to annual fees are problematic. If costs are underestimated means tax payers may pay for wireless companies rights of way.
We manage the rights of way and we don’t want to give up management to a private industry. A precedent changing bill of this kind requires greater thought.
Question: Mahoney
I would like to see an existing contract. That would help gauge reasonableness.
5G is ripe for metro areas (maybe near college campus) – what about places with lower pollution density?
AT&T – our coverage map of MN (for 4G) – we provider more coverage. We just got to Worthington last year. We had 1200 upgrades in the last year. Small cells are part of the equation. We are active testing fixed wireless services – we are doing rural broadband deployment in WI. In small town where there isn’t data congestion – it might be just 1-2 small cells.
Project Arrogate(?) – broadband around powerlines.
We want to get this right in MN and then blow the doors off other states.
Verizon – good question. The reality is that we need fiber to provide 4G or 5G – so I think the technology will be the carrot for LECs to invest in fiber to the community. If they had fiber they’d have 4-5 wireless providers as their first customers.
Mahoney – I hope in the future (2-10+ years) that you will not come back for state assistance. If you do I hope we require private providers to pay for expansion on their own dime. We have been hearing about broadband lacking in rural areas for years. We can’t hear the same about 5G.
Question – Metsa
For cable providers – is this a big enough carrot? Would this opportunity convince your members to deploy broadband in rural areas?
MN Cable Assn – Many of my members do have fiber. We have requested/received state funding.
Maybe you need to ask the wireless companies about who owns the fiber.
Question – Scott
Rep O’Neal was a marriage counselor. We thought the small cell marriage had been saved. Then suddenly we’re still having troubles. Are you going to be the spouse that walks away or saves the marriage?
LMC – we have been at the table. We have been at the conversations. We have many members. This is very complex.
We will continue the conversation.

Question – Thissen
Pricing structure on page 13 – sounds like it was discussed and now folks aren’t happy
Rep O’Neal
Friday we had agreed to everything with the exception of pricing. LMC had a few details. They made a last offer. We didn’t have a counter offer.
The whole point of the bill is regulatory certainty and price certainty. The highest level is $200 or lesser of actual expenses. The provider said their could live with:
Verizon $50
Sprint $75
AT&T $150
Providers aren’t happy with this. Cities aren’t happy.
Without this we

Question – Thissen
So this was negotiated with provider?
O’Neal – we took the League’s offer and can back with a counter based on provider needs.
Question – Thissen
They had negotiated deals in Minnesota with higher fixed fees so to say we won’t have 5G without this lower number doesn’t make sense.
O’Neal – There’s no 5G deployment in MN. It takes a minimum of 10x the equipment for 5G. So they need the cost to be lower.
Garofalo – it hasn’t been deployed but there is an agreement in place in Minneapolis with higher numbers
AT&T – we are trying to build for the superbowl – not for 5G but for added cells to handle traffic. St Louis Park was too high so we won’t work with them. If we can’t get a deal we will create a solution for that day/event only

Moran Question – who will benefit from this bill?
AT&T – wireless companies (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) even cable companies will be using 5G. And your constituents will be using 5G
Moran Question – so wireless is getting specials rights that no one else has?
AT&T I don’t agree. This is new technology it’s not recognized in the law. We need a solution for technology right of way.
Burnsville – this bill will create a separate right of way solution for wireless that isn’t there for other utilities. We can prohibit based on safety but we can’t stop them from placing equipment in front of your house. And the get a separate permitting from utilities.
Moran Questions – wireless carriers – why can’t you coordinate with the cities?
AT&T – we do coordinate with the cities. We are trying to define the parameters and have certain conditions. We submit permits still with this bill – they will be approved or denied.

Rep Maye Quade Question
I want 5G. But cities control everything. Is it possible that a wireless provider could build in front of my parents’ house?
AT&T – historical districts are removed from this, there are size limitations. In many cases small cell technology is changing so fast sometimes the equipment looks like a tree. It’s unobtrusive. If we think we have a spectrum congestion issue
Garofalo – but the question is small that a fridge, right?
Rep MQ – same question to cities
Burnsville – The support structure can be up to 50 feet. And yes they could build in from of your house.
Rep Maye Quade Question
How build is micro wireless?

Rep Maye Quade Question
And why the differentiation for third party use? And cost?
AT&T – there are bad actors who have been trying to get unfair profit from providers.
Burnsville – as written this bill doesn’t require a permit to do maintenance. That’s a problem for cities.
Question Rep
What was the initial request from cities for pricing?
LMC – Fair market value – the cost is different for different communities. We need to make sure that current negotiations
Question – What was the original price given by cities.
LMC We didn’t want a number. We don’t have a number for other utilities. We want market – so we came back with $200 plus actual costs.
Question Mahoney
Maintenance need to be put back into the bill. I sat in two of these meetings. There’s two tyes of technologies that will be deployed. What are typical costs?
AT&T – I know what we’ve spent on CAPEX in MN but not specifics.
Mahoney seems like $1250, the other is $24-2500 per year. Does that seem about right?
AT&T – that seems like electric and maintenance. We’re paying on the high side and we’ve said if we use a lot more energy we can pay it.
Mahnoey – I know other cities have negotiated with $600-700. What would be the effect of an FCC decision that allows small cell to be
AT&T – there is an active docket at the FCC. Pai is interested in driving technology and reducing regulatory hurdles. We could see something like pole rates (which are more like $20).
LMC – agree with AT&T. LMC will be filing comments with the FCC. We are for 5G but not at the loss of local control.
Rep Clark – seems like in Minneapolis – it seems like there might be a tower at the end of each block
AT&T – not towers – small cell equipment – but in high use areas 500-1000 feet.
Clark – how difficult it is to damage the equipment?
AT&T I don’t know. The maintenance fee is new $25/pole/year
Rep Layman – I want to vote but my cities are not in support. They said the reason was loss of control of their rights of way. Are we giving them a better deal now? Will the FCC be coming in and requiring more?
LMC – we don’t know what the FCC is going to do. We will be advocating for local control with the FCC.I don’t know what the FCC will preempt. There are a couple different issues.
Question Thissen – so which will prevail FCC or State?
AT&T – I don’t know what they are going to do.
Question Thissen – what is the active docket?
AT&T Don’t have it in front of me. Pai wants to accelerate this technology – but they don’t go into details of solutions.
Garofalo – it goes into de-densification. likelihood of preemption is greater when there is no regulation.
Question Thissen
This is small cell – not 5G, right
AT&T – 5G has set standards that wasn’t the case when we started. We are testing this now. spectral congestion is the issue being solved.
There has been small cell deployed in MN. We’re in Mpls, St Louis Park, near the US Bank Stadium and we’re working with St Paul.
Thissen – A7
Minneapolis has already set a contract. This amendment allows existing contracts to stand.
O’Neal – we want a vote of no.
Thissen – The intention was to accomplish this (pg 8) . There is a carve out for existing contracts.
Mahoney A8
Cities are concerned about setting a fee. I want to put in an inflationary component to the maintenance but no more than 3 percent.
ONeil – let’s not adopt. I’m not opposed but let’s hold off – maybe bring it up on the floor.
Metsa – clarification of A7 before it gets to floor
Can we get a list of other cities that may have contracts in place?

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This entry was posted in Conferences, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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