SB649 Unfunded Mandate; Not Equitable: CA Dept of Finance Opposes

The California Department of Finance quietly released its analysis report last week determining that SB 649 is likely to create a million dollar unfunded mandate, fails to cure basic wireless digital divide issues; and is fails to address important issues of community aesthetics.

If this bill is enacted and a test claim is filed with the Commission on State Mandates, the Commission may determine the bill imposes reimbursable, state-mandated costs on local agencies.

The potential state mandate would stem from (1) the bill’s $250 limit on the annual lease charge that cities and counties can impose on each small cell device attached to its vertical infrastructure, and (2) a formula that limits the annual attachment fees that cities and counties may charge for each small cell device attached to its vertical infrastructure. If the Commission determines the lease and fee revenue derived under these caps is insufficient to fund the claimants’ actual inspection and maintenance costs, the difference would be state-reimbursable.

While the extent of the potential mandate is unknown, Finance believes it can easily approach $1 million per year.

The Department of Finance did not mince words:

Finance opposes this bill. While statewide uniform rules can help the expansion of new technologies, this bill goes too far by usurping city and county zoning authority for infrastructure development, and it potentially imposes reimbursable, state-mandated costs on cities and counties.

The DOF noted some of the key basic inequities in SB 649, including the fact that this bill does NOTHING to reduce the wireless digital divide in California:

We also note the bill poses equity and access concerns. The bill gives telecommunications providers the power to determine where they deploy small cell technologies, which can be highly localized. Providers may cover high-demand neighborhoods first, while low-income neighborhoods may be left underserved. This arrangement follows in the path of high-speed internet service, which has led to uneven access for rural and lower-income areas. Under current law, cities and counties can require, as part of their permitting process, that small cell providers incorporate rural and lower-income areas into their service networks. By pre-empting local government authority, this bill also limits city and county tools to address those equity issues.
. . .
This bill also prevents local governments from addressing community concerns about small cells, such as the aesthetic impact small cells may have on a locality.

This ill-conceived and poorly thought-out wireless industry give-away is the wrong bill for California. There is a right bill, but this is not that bill.


Contact your Assembly Member and State Senator TODAY…RIGHT NOW…and tell them why SB 649 is a wireless industry give-away that hurts all Californians.



Dr. Kramer Presents Local Government Opposition to SB 649 at Assembly Appropriations Committee

On August 23, I was the only local government representative permitted to speak at the Appropriations Committee hearing of the California Assembly in opposition to SB 649, the statewide wireless deregulation bill.  The Chair allocated all of 2 minutes for opposition comments from local governments, and I was designated by the League of California Cities, CSAC, APA, the rural counties, the urban counties, and the Coalition of Concerned California Communities as the local government speaker for those 2 minutes.

Below are my prepared remarks:

I am Dr. Jonathan L. Kramer, here at the request of the League of California Cities, and a coalition of local government stakeholders including the APA, CSAC, APA, the rural counties, the urban counties, and the Coalition of Concerned California Communities.

I have been a telecommunications engineer in California for over 30 years. Nationally, I have worked for nearly 1,000 governments as a telecommunications engineer and safety inspector for Telecommunications facilities. I am also a telecommunications lawyer here in California.

Dr. Jonathan Kramer
Dr. Jonathan L. Kramer presenting local government opposition to SB 649.

Last year I completed my doctorate in law and policy at Northeastern University. My doctoral thesis studied, in part, economic impacts of cell sites in residential communities.

The local government stakeholders remain opposed to SB 649 as revised because –among other reasons–of its tremendous negative statewide economic impacts over the next five or so decades.

SB 649 remains an empty bag of promises.

A proper bill would require the deployment of a wireless network that would help to close the existing wireless digital divide in California.

SB 649 is devoid of any such requirement, much less a coherent and comprehensive plan to close that gap with 5G. Not even with 4G…or 3G.

It is obvious that wireless communications is a statewide economic driver, and a proper bill would ensure the economic benefits of wireless state wide.

Sb 649 is not that Bill. It ensures nothing of the sort.

There can be no argument that Public Safety is a statewide economic issue.

My firm has inspected hundreds of thousands of broadband and Wireless communications locations in California. In our experience, wireless and broadband providers violate safety codes north of 30% of the time.

As you’ll recall, the Malibu fire was caused by overloading of utility poles by wireless facilities. Certainly, a conflagration like that had an economic impact far exceeding Malibu.

A proper bill would never act to weaken public safety. Yet SB 649 on a statewide basis does exactly that by allowing some “small cells” to be installed by wireless companies and Cable TV operators without even having to obtain local permits and inspections. Not even traffic control permits! Boom, a cell site suddenly appears on a pole near you.

It is simply the most fundamental concept of public management of the right of way to know who and what are in those rights of way, and to make sure that facilities installed in the right of way are inspected to verify initial and ongoing safety code compliance.

A well thought out bill would never undermine public safety, but SB 649 is not a well thought out bill.

They properly crafted and well thought out bill would not–on a state wide basis –shift the economic burden of building a 5G network from the shareholders of the for-profit wireless carriers and shift that burden to the backs of California citizens by grossly sub-market rents and compulsory access to essentially every type of private property.

A proper bill would not incentivize wireless carriers to break their private property leases to go into the public right of way, all to the economic benefit of their shareholders but to the detriment of private wireless site landlords, and the citizens who paid for improvements in the right of way.

SB 649 is not that bill.

The wireless industry has been telling legislators that 5G is necessary for the deployment of an earthquake early warning system.  While that’s a political sounds-good argument, even if a technical misstatement of the industry, a properly crafted bill would require wireless providers to participate and in part fund statewide that earthquake early warning system as a condition of the incredible benefits that attach to deregulation.

SB 649 is not that bill.

A properly crafted bill would not reduce general funding sources that pay for police and fire services by artificially slashing rents to far below the fair market rental value of Government improvements to property paid for by California residents to benefit wireless company shareholders.

We ‘get’ that there can be tremendous value in wider deployment of wireless services to all of the citizens of California in all parts of our Golden State.  That should occur through a properly crafted, thoughtful wireless bill that at least tries to balance the equities.  We believe that there a path to that proper bill.

It’s just that there is no clear and obvious path through SB649 to that proper bill.

Thank you.


California SB 649: The “Wireless Industry Don’t Care About Small Cell Aesthetics” Legislation

The current version of SB 649, California’s ‘small cell’ Bill is still riddled with loopholes and contradictory language.  Guess whether the public or the wireless industry benefits from Sen. Hueso’s Billion-Dollar gift of public property and funds to the shareholders of the various wireless companies? Go ahead…I’ll wait.

Okay, well that didn’t take you too long to figure out.

Here’s a photo sim of a wireless “small cell” project that local governments (here, Calabasas) would be required to approve, by right, under SB 649:

Sadly, our legislators don’t seem to have any realistic handle on just how horrible SB 649 will be for community aesthetics.


Mobilitie Upping its Design of Neighborhood Small Cells

I’m pleased (and frankly a bit surprised) to say that Mobilitie has come up with a small cell light-standard design that is much closer to reality, and likely within the range of a design that many jurisdictions will be willing to consider and approve.

Once I have designated deemed-complete design, I’ll share it with you, but for now know that we may have seen the last of the infamous Mobility Pox-on-a-pole design, or the Speer Gun design, or the Thoughtless-wiring design.

This doesn’t mean that the 70′ and 120′ tall “small cells” are dead and gone, sadly, but the local distribution site clearly are getting more real.


(Hi Gary)