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Anacortes, Wash., Nears a Policy for Small Cell Antennas

The city’s six-month moratorium on the communications antennas is set to expire at the end of February, and officials have been working to cement a policy that complements recent federal changes.

(TNS) — The Anacortes Planning Commission approved Wednesday revisions to the city's code on cellular infrastructure.

The revisions must be approved by the City Council.

City Attorney Darcy Swetnam said city code needs to be amended to reflect changes coming to wireless technology.

Rather than rely only on traditional cell towers, telecommunications companies are moving toward small cell technology — a small box usually mounted on existing power poles or street lights.

Small cell boxes have lower range but provide higher-speed data connections, Alan Bar, small cell strategy manager with Verizon, said at a Planning Commission meeting Jan. 16.

In August 2017, the City Council issued a six-month moratorium on new cellular infrastructure in order to give the city time to work on regulations that account for small-cell infrastructure, Swetnam said.

After two six-month extensions, the moratorium is set to expire Feb. 28.

At the urging of representatives of the telecommunications industry, the Planning Commission decided not to require a public process for acquiring a permit to install a small cell box.

Kim Allen with the Wireless Policy Group representing Verizon, said service providers want to work quickly, and a required comment period would keep that from happening.

A full, public permitting process will still be required when a service provider wants to install a new pole in a residential area or if it wants permission to mount boxes on poles adjacent to a city street or sidewalk.

Rules from the Federal Communications Commission restrict the city from forbidding small cell expansion, but it can make rollout gradual.

For instance, the city is not allowed to request proof that a proposed small cell box is needed to fill a gap in coverage, said Tacy Hass, an attorney with Foster Pepper, a firm with which the city contracted for assistance.

Language requiring these companies submit proof was struck from the code revisions by the commission Wednesday.

©2019 the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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