Editor’s note: The following letter is about Senate Bill 426, which was approved by the Senate Feb. 28 and still under consideration by the House as of March 21. It is in response to a March 19 letter to the editor by Phil Jacobs.
With a career fueled by the telecom industry, I can appreciate the position taken by Phil Jacobs related to SB 426, calling for unregulated deployment of small cell antennas and poles. However, in making a decision that will reverberate across every city in Georgia, lawmakers should carefully consider the facts and effects, not simply the will of private utilities.
In communities like Sandy Springs, the right-of-way literally is part of a homeowners’ front yard. This bill allows private companies to come on to those properties and place a pole or electronic box resembling a refrigerator there without the owner’s permission or a permit by the local government.
Thus, SB 426 provides private companies unfettered access to rights-of-way, neutering a city’s ability to provide any control over placement and deployment plans. It’s not only a matter of visual clutter; this bill squelches opportunities for enhanced performance and improved safety. It offers no incentive for private utilities to include safety and visual enhancements.
The right-of-way is publicly owned. It’s paid for by the taxpayer. In Sandy Springs, we approve approximately 93 percent of all small cell installation submissions. We charge no fee if the company has a franchise agreement with the city, and a one-time payment of $235 per pole if the company lacks a franchise agreement. While Mr. Jacobs feels these rates are exorbitant and creates barriers, I disagree. It simply provides appropriate citizen input and community oversight.
SB 426 removes local control. Meanwhile, what is appropriate in a sparsely populated rural community is not necessarily so in a densely populated suburban/urban environment. One pole may not be offensive. However, add the multiplier of the varied companies and the number of poles needed per square foot to provide service, and can we honestly call that field of poles and wires aesthetically pleasing? An enhancement to the homeowner’s property value?
I agree with Mr. Jacobs that we should work in partnership. SB 426 is not a partnership. In fact, it strips away the rights of our citizens.
Sandy Springs mayor