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Wireless company 5G attachments headed to Springfield utility poles

With Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signing of a bill last week, Springfield will have two months to adopt forms and fees for telecommunication companies that want to attach cells to its utility poles, according to City Water, Light and Power spokeswoman Amber Sabin.

The new law prohibits local governments from regulating or charging wireless

companies for attaching their devices to streetlights and utility poles. The “small cells,” which can be up to six cubic feet in size, help boost user connectivity to the 5G wireless network. Rauner said the plan will create jobs and provide residents with faster internet service, according to The Associated Press.

Before the legislature passed the bill, the city of Springfield had been in negotiations with AT&T to charge $250 per month per pole, starting at 50 poles, according to Mayor Jim Langfelder. One year’s worth of usage would have amounted to $150,000.

Now, the city may not charge more than a $200 attachment fee per year, Sabin said.

Permit application fees for wireless companies could be up to $650 for the first small cell and $350 for every additional unit. One permit application can have up to 25 small cell installations. Cities cannot regulate which poles or what type of poles the companies may use or how high the attachments can sit above the poles.

Several municipalities opposed the bill, and Langfelder was one of the loudest dissenting voices. Springfield is one of a few cities that owns its utility poles, and he hoped a subsequent “trailer” bill would have exempted the city. Chicago is exempted from the new law.

“I’m not against 5G,” Langfelder said in an interview. “I’m against the city not getting compensated for what it invests in its infrastructure.”

After the Senate passed the bill last year, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, used a procedural motion in November to keep the bill from Rauner’s desk to see if some of the cities’ concerns could be addressed during the current legislative session.

“We didn’t resolve concerns quickly, so we went ahead and forwarded the bill to the governor’s desk,” John Patterson, Cullerton’s spokesman, said in an interview Monday.

An amendment filed by state Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, to a House bill would exempt municipalities that had already adopted an ordinance regulating small cells before the law went into effect. However, the bill has not moved forward during the current session.

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