Re: Story, “Cell phone tower bill discussion postponed,” Thursday’s MDJ
I am the primary sponsor of House Bill 176, the Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act. I have been working on this important legislation since October of last year, and have worked very hard to answer all questions regarding the legislation and respond to all inaccurate allegations about it.
The legislation is available for review on the Georgia General Assembly website. I have produced and posted two videos explaining the legislation, the latest of which can be viewed on my website at www.donparsons.org. A reading of the legislation will make it very clear to anyone that it does not in any way, “allow cell phone companies to sidestep zoning meetings before new towers could go up” as the author of the article reports in the article.
The article reports Kennesaw City Manager Steve Kennedy “urged the council to oppose House Bill 176, claiming the towers infringe on the local government’s authority to administer its zoning laws.” That claim is absolutely not true. The legislation actually reaffirms the authority of local governments to exercise local zoning authority.
The article further reports, “Cell phone companies (sic) could also control rents when towers are placed on public property, according to Council member Bruce Jenkins.” The legislation would not allow cell tower companies, telecommunications companies, or any cellular company to control rent on public property or any other property. The original version of the bill provided for a process to establish a fair market value in order to establish fair rental fees on public property. The provision was included because under current law, government has an unfair advantage over private property owners in the bargaining process to agree to rental fees. Under current law, the very governing authority that has the power to approve or deny a permit also has the leverage and power to demand whatever rental fee it desires for the placement of equipment on public property. Private landowners do not have that bargaining position.
The current version of House Bill 176, approved by the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee Feb. 22 does not contain the provision regarding rental fees for equipment on public property. This version has been on the Georgia General Assembly website since March 1, and my video explaining the current version has been available on my website since March 2. There is no excuse for the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) or any city councilman to reference that provision as a problem with this legislation.
House Bill 176 is important legislation for Georgia. Seventy percent of telecommunications in Georgia is now carried over wireless. Today’s wireless devices require huge amounts of bandwidth. The demand on wireless bandwidth grows day by day. When enacted, local governing authorities will be required to either approve or deny applications in a time period the FCC has ruled to be reasonable. In order to provide for the broadband infrastructure needed for the public safety of our citizens, economic development across Georgia, financial investment in our communities, and cellular service for personal and business transactions, this legislation is of vital importance to our state. I will continue to fight for this legislation. Of that, everyone can be certain.
House District 44
Editor’s note from News Editor Leo Hohmann: The MDJ stands by its story as originally reported.