move helped centralize expertise and responsibility into one office. As regulations are created by bodies such as the FCC, "we as a city are in a position to deal with it in one place," Bobkiewicz said.

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The Medina Case

The town of Medina, Wash., passed a six-month moratorium on communication tower applications in February in order to study co-location and other issues. Sprint Spectrum took the Seattle suburb to court, arguing that Medina had to act on the request "within a reasonable period of time" under the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The district court found that the moratorium was not in violation of the federal law because it is "a short-term suspension of permit-issuing while the city gathers information and processes applications." Essentially, the district court said that stepping back to gather information about telecommunications towers and zoning is allowed and not an undue burden on service providers wanting to get into the market.

The city passed the moratorium on new towers because the council wanted to learn a little more about the technology, said Joyce Papke, Medina city manager. "It is not a long time, but it gives us time to learn about the needs of providers and residents." The moratorium expired last month.

While this can be seen as a victory for local governments, it is important to understand that the district court order is only binding in that part of the country, and a district court elsewhere could come to a different conclusion.

But a court has come forward and said that local government has "the right to look at telecommunications the way it does other issues," such as urban planning, said John Kenny of U.S. Strategies Corp. in a telephone interview. An interpretation of the court's order is that local governments "should be given time to get a structure in place for the [Telecommunications] Act," Kenny said.

More Information

Telecommunications: Planning for the Future, A Guide for Local Governments is available from the International City/County Management Association at 800/745-8780.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996: What it Means to Local Governments, by the National League of Cities, is available by calling 301/725-4299.

Local Government Roles on the Information Superhighway is available from Public Technology Inc. Although published before the new telecommunications law, this book includes articles on economic development, telecommunications planning and other local government concerns. PTI publications can be ordered by calling 800/852-4934. Also, visit PTI's home page, which includes links to a variety of telecom information resources at .

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