Pennsylvania Lawmakers Table Bill Easing 5G Antenna Rules

Legislators canceled a vote on a telecom-backed bill that would have made it easier and cheaper for companies to install 5G small cell antennas. Municipal leaders criticized the bill for eroding local authority.

by / June 19, 2019
Pennsylvania Capitol Shutterstock/Jon Bilous

Protests by municipal associations and unions stalled a bill that would make it easier and cheaper for wireless carriers to put 4G and 5G small cell antennas on utility poles in Pennsylvania.

The Verizon- and AT&T-backed legislation moved swiftly from introduction to subcommittee to the scheduling of a House Consumer Affairs Committee vote last week. But the vote, which had been rescheduled from Monday to Tuesday, was ultimately cancelled after several entities representing local governments expressed concerns that the bill didn’t improve broadband access to rural areas and it undercut municipal zoning authorities.

The office of Rep. Brad Roae, who chairs the House Consumer Affairs Committee, told Government Technology that the legislation will be brought back up in the fall when the Legislature reconvenes. Roae has publicly accused municipal officials of trying to force wireless carriers to pay high fees.

The proposed bill would have set a lower fee than what the FCC mandated for small cell antennas in 2018.

Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), said publicly that the legislation lacked safety and training provisions for workers who would install the small cell antennas.

This was Verizon and AT&T’s third attempt at passing a small cell antenna bill in Harrisburg, Pa., aimed at easing rules and regulations for 4G coverage and next-generation 5G services.

Municipal officials have previously said the installation of small antennas could decrease the charm of popular historic districts or place them in residential areas without prior zoning approvals from city government.

Patrick Groves Staff Writer

Patrick Groves is a staff writer for Government Technology. Previously, he worked for five years at newspapers in Washington state, Idaho, Florida and Northern California. He has a Bachelor’s degree in communication from Washington State University and lives in Northern California.

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