SB649: Autonomous Cars and Autonomous Lies

In a frantic effort to try and salvage SB649 (the “Wireless Industry Prevarication and Theft of the People’s Property Act”) from a veto by Gov. Brown, the wireless industry has come up with a nifty new lie: Without 5G small cells we cannot have autonomous cars.


Well, with other industry ‘sounds good’ myths debunked, the wireless industry lobbyists have straining to find a new prevarication not once mentioned in any of the SB649 hearings: autonomous cars need small cells to work drive.

Okay, if that’s the case (and its not) then how will self-driving vehicles travel on controlled access state highways and Interstate Highways?  Will the industry commit to placing small cells for each company about every 500 feet along those high access/use roadways?  That would be about 45 new small cells along each mile of roadway.

Oh, wait… As Jim Lovell actually said during the Apollo 13 mission, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

The problem is that SB 649 doesn’t grant any rights to install small cells on controlled access state highways or Interstate Highways.  It only deals with right-of-ways controlled by local governments.

Oops!  Let’s not let the truth cloud the wireless industry lies…again.

SB 649 is simply a way of diverting 10s of $billions of rent from the citizens of California and into the pockets of wireless industry shareholders with no duties on the wireless industry to build even one small cell site, close one inch of the existing digital divide, provide even 4G services to under- and unserved areas in California.

Stop the SB649 Rip Off!




A Modest Proposal to ‘Shake Up’ SB 649

California is a part of the Pacific Rim’s earthquake ring of fire, as the wireless industry likes to remind our State Senators and Assembly Members.  In fact, as part of its full court press on California legislators to pass SB 649 into law, one of the more commonly-heard arguments in legislative offices is that 5G small cell sites are necessary to give cell phone users, hospital, police and fire stations, and others advance warnings of earthquakes.  In fact, without 5G there is no earthquake early warning system.

(Not surprising is that the wireless industry assertion is a factual hoax from a technology standpoint, but let’s not let facts confuse wireless industry puffery.)

What is surprising, given the industry chest-pounding claims about the need for 5G small cells for an earthquake warning system, is that SB 649–which was written by the wireless industry–is absolutely devoid of any mention of any requirement to make earthquake early warnings a reality, much less a wireless industry obligation.

Essentially, the wireless industry’s claims that we need 5G for earthquake early warnings is good old fashion fear-mongering without even an iota of an industry solution.

Well, folks, I’m here to help suggest a once-for-forever solution to the wireless industry’s concerns about the need for earthquake early warning!

Let’s start with an insane reality connected to SB 649.  As ghost written by the wireless industry, SB 649 will result in billions of dollars of wireless industry shareholder value by requiring that municipalities rent publicly owned and paid-for property at far below fair market value. Those under-market value rents will be in place for at least 50 years.

Here’s another insane reality: Historically, the state and federal governments have been unwilling to come up with the relatively modest funding required to deploy and maintain a fully effective earthquake early warning system in this Golden State.

Given  that:

  1. California has unsuccessfully struggled to get adequate state and federal funding to fully deploy and activate a statewide early earthquake warning system, much less one that is integrated into the wireless and broadband wired networks, coupled with the need to fund maintenance and improvements over decades, and

  2. the wireless industry has repeated told our legislators that 5G small cell deployment is necessary for them to provide the pubic with early warnings of earthquakes, and

  3. the wireless industry will be given nearly free access to billions of dollars of public property and funds by the cost caps built into SB649, and

  4. Mexico’s early earthquake warning system just provided up to a full minute of early warning time before the 8.1 magnitude waves hit…

I think the wireless industry should be funding and building a world-class earthquake early warning system to save lives paid out of their wallets to be grossly fattened by SB 649. The wireless industry lobbyists say that 5G is needed for earthquake early warning, and SB 649 is needed to lower wireless industry site rental costs? Okay, then I’m sure you’ll amenable to amend SB 649 to require the very same concerned wireless industry to fund the statewide research, deployment, maintenance, and upgrades of the world’s finest and most effective earthquake early warning system.

That would be a fair concession, at least in part, for the billions of dollars of financial benefits the wireless industry and their shareholders will receive from SB 649.  I’m sure my industry friends will agree to this modest proposal.  I expect your next amendments on this within, say, the next 7 days.

I’m waiting to hear from you…  I’m sure @DrLucyJones and her scientists will quaking in their boots waiting, too! (Sorry…I had to have a bad pun in this post somewhere!)


PS: If the wireless industry needs help writing an amendment to achieve this modest proposal, just ask.  I’m ready.

PPS: Here’s my industry-friendly slogan for this proposal,

Save a life, save a revenue unit!




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.


California SB 649: Newer Big Lies About Small Cells

When SB 649 was voted out of the California Senate on May 31, only a 3 or 4 Senators knew the contents of the Bill at that time, yet it secured passage on a 31 to 1 vote.

A couple of days ago, the drastically amended SB 649 was released back into public view in advance of its first Assembly hearing next Wednesday.  Small cells started in SB 649 at being 28 cubic feet, then went down to 21 cubic feet in the Senate, but low and behold now small cells are up to 41 cubic feet…or even larger!

The industry’s current compensation schedule for the their theft of the people’s property is still, well, a theft (or gift) of public property.

Some new small cell sites in the public right-of-ways and utility easements are proposed to be allowed WITHOUT any local government notice, review, or permits. Safety?  Not here.

All cell sites, whether in the public right-of-way, on public property, or on private property are proposed in the bill to be subject only to a non-discretionary permit process.  NO MORE PUBLIC INPUT ON ANY NEW CELL SITES IN CALIFORNIA.

There are so many more things wrong with SB 649 that it boggles the mind.  The illustration below is a good illustration of what SB 649 is to those who have become even more greedy in the last few weeks.


SB649, the “Theft of the People’s Property by the Wireless Industry” Act, Passes CA Senate

Just before 9pm tonight, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 649.  The Bill now moves on to the California Assembly.  The vote was 31 aye and 1 nay (Sen. Glazer was the only one voting against the Bill).

If you’d like to listen in on a tad over 13 minutes of misrepresentations and double speak, you can click on the audio player below.

This fight now moves on to the Assembly.


California SB 649 (‘Wireless Theft of Public Property Bill’) Reported Out of G&F Committee

This afternoon, SB 649 (the “Local Governments Give Up Their Property to Enrich Wireless Companies Act”) was heard in the California Senate Governance and Finance Committee.  With amendments not seen by the public, and clearly not understood by the Committee Members, the Bill was voted unanimously approved and voted out of that Committee.

The Committee also determined that they were best positioned to determine how much the industry should pay local governments for wireless industry access to local government property, so they appointed a subcommittee to do just that.

If you’d like to listen to 85 minutes of misleading industry testimony, concerns by local government and APA representatives, more concerns from a panel that worries about RF emissions, and back-peddling from the sponsor of the bill, you can stream the audio here:

Hopefully, the as-yet unseen amendments clearly not understood by the Committee will be out soon.



California SB649: The Next Wireless Industry Bill

Yesterday, the expected (first?) wireless industry Bill, SB649 was dropped into the California Senate hopper on Friday, February 17, 2017.  This Bill appears to be a small change to existing law to define small cells and include them in existing state law provisions.  Of course, it would come as no surprise to find the Bill amended late in the process to add far more concerning provisions.

I encourage the California wireless industry to reach out to the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties, as well as SCAN NATOA, to discuss these proposed changes, and any still planned to be amended in.

The changes to existing law are shown in BOLD BLUE.

Introduced by Senator Hueso
(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Quirk)
(Coauthor: Senator Dodd)


SB 649, as introduced, Hueso. Wireless telecommunications facilities.
Under existing law, a wireless telecommunications collocation facility, as specified, is subject to a city or county discretionary permit and is required to comply with specified criteria, but a collocation facility, which is the placement or installation of wireless facilities, including antennas and related equipment, on or immediately adjacent to that wireless telecommunications collocation facility, is a permitted use not subject to a city or county discretionary permit. Existing law defines various terms for these purposes.
This bill would define the term “small cell” as a particular type of telecommunications facility for these purposes.
Under existing law, a city or county, as a condition of approval of an application for a permit for construction or reconstruction of a development project for a wireless telecommunications facility, may not require an escrow deposit for removal of a wireless telecommunications facility or any component thereof, unreasonably limit the duration of any permit for a wireless telecommunications facility, or require that all wireless telecommunications facilities be limited to sites owned by particular parties within the jurisdiction of the city or county, as specified.
This bill would apply these prohibitions to the approval of small cell facilities as defined by this bill.

Digest Key

Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  


The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1.  The Legislature finds and declares that, to ensure that communities across the state have access to the most advanced wireless communications technologies and the transformative solutions that robust wireless connectivity enables, such as Smart Communities and the Internet of Things, California should work in coordination with federal, state, and local officials to create a statewide framework for the deployment of advanced wireless communications infrastructure in California that does all of the following:

(a) Reaffirms local governments’ historic role and authority with respect to wireless communications infrastructure siting and construction generally.

(b) Reaffirms that deployment of telecommunications facilities in the rights-of-way is a matter of statewide concern, subject to a statewide franchise, and that expeditious deployment of telecommunications networks generally is a matter of both statewide and national concern.

(c) Recognizes that the impact on local interests from individual small wireless facilities will be sufficiently minor and that such deployments should be a permitted use statewide and should not be subject to discretionary zoning review.

(d) Requires expiring permits for these facilities to be renewed so long as the site maintains compliance with use conditions adopted at the time the site was originally approved.

(e) Requires providers to obtain all applicable building or encroachment permits and comply with all related health, safety, and objective aesthetic requirements for small wireless facility deployments on a ministerial basis.

(f) Grants providers fair, reasonable, nondiscriminatory, and nonexclusive access to locally owned utility poles, street lights, and other suitable host infrastructure located within the public right-of-way and in other local public places such as stadiums, parks, campuses, hospitals, transit stations, and public buildings consistent with all applicable health and safety requirements, including Public Utilities Commission General Order 95.

(g) Provides for full recovery by local governments of the costs of attaching small wireless facilities to utility poles, street lights, and other suitable host infrastructure in a manner that is consistent with existing federal and state laws governing utility pole attachments generally.

(h) Permits local governments to charge wireless permit fees that are fair, reasonable, nondiscriminatory, and cost based.

(i) Advances technological and competitive neutrality while not adding new requirements on competing providers that do not exist today.

SEC. 2. Section 65850.6 of the Government Code is amended to read:

65850.6. (a) A collocation facility shall be a permitted use not subject to a city or county discretionary permit if it satisfies the following requirements:

(1) The collocation facility is consistent with requirements for the wireless telecommunications collocation facility pursuant to subdivision (b) on which the collocation facility is proposed.

(2) The wireless telecommunications collocation facility on which the collocation facility is proposed was subject to a discretionary permit by the city or county and an environmental impact report was certified, or a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration was adopted for the wireless telecommunications collocation facility in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code), the requirements of Section 21166 do not apply, and the collocation facility incorporates required mitigation measures specified in that environmental impact report, negative declaration, or mitigated negative declaration.

(b) A wireless telecommunications collocation facility, where a subsequent collocation facility is a permitted use not subject to a city or county discretionary permit pursuant to subdivision (a), shall be subject to a city or county discretionary permit issued on or after January 1, 2007, and shall comply with all of the following:

(1) City or county requirements for a wireless telecommunications collocation facility that specifies types of wireless telecommunications facilities that are allowed to include a collocation facility, or types of wireless telecommunications facilities that are allowed to include certain types of collocation facilities; height, location, bulk, and size of the wireless telecommunications collocation facility; percentage of the wireless telecommunications collocation facility that may be occupied by collocation facilities; and aesthetic or design requirements for the wireless telecommunications collocation facility.

(2) City or county requirements for a proposed collocation facility, including any types of collocation facilities that may be allowed on a wireless telecommunications collocation facility; height, location, bulk, and size of allowed collocation facilities; and aesthetic or design requirements for a collocation facility.

(3) State and local requirements, including the general plan, any applicable community plan or specific plan, and zoning ordinance.

(4) The California Environmental Quality Act (Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code) through certification of an environmental impact report, or adoption of a negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration.

(c) The city or county shall hold at least one public hearing on the discretionary permit required pursuant to subdivision (b) and notice shall be given pursuant to Section 65091, unless otherwise required by this division.

(d) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) “Collocation facility” means the placement or installation of wireless facilities, including antennas, and related equipment, on, or immediately adjacent to, a wireless telecommunications collocation facility.

(2) “Small cell” means a wireless telecommunications facility within the volume limits established by the Federal Communications Commission for small wireless antennas and associated equipment in the First Amendment to Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless Antennas (47 C.F.R. Part 1 Appendix B).

(3) “Wireless telecommunications facility” means equipment and network components such as towers, utility poles, transmitters, base stations, and emergency power systems that are integral to providing wireless telecommunications services.

(4) “Wireless telecommunications collocation facility” means a wireless telecommunications facility that includes collocation facilities.

(e)  The Legislature finds and declares that both small cell and collocation facilities, as defined in this section, have a significant economic impact in California and are not a municipal affair as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI of the California Constitution, but is are a matter of statewide concern.

(f) With respect to the consideration of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions, the review by the city or county shall be limited to that authorized by Section 332(c)(7) of Title 47 of the United States Code, or as that section may be hereafter amended.

SEC. 3. Section 65964 of the Government Code is amended to read:

65964. As a condition of approval of an application for a permit for construction or reconstruction for a development project for a wireless telecommunications facility or small cell, as defined in Section 65850.6, a city or county shall not do any of the following:

(a) Require an escrow deposit for removal of a wireless telecommunications facility or any component thereof. However, a performance bond or other surety or another form of security may be required, so long as the amount of the bond security is rationally related to the cost of removal. In establishing the amount of the security, the city or county shall take into consideration information provided by the permit applicant regarding the cost of removal.

(b) Unreasonably limit the duration of any permit for a wireless telecommunications facility. Limits of less than 10 years are presumed to be unreasonable absent public safety reasons or substantial land use reasons. However, cities and counties may establish a build-out period for a site.

(c) Require that all wireless telecommunications facilities be limited to sites owned by particular parties within the jurisdiction of the city or county.