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Proponents and opponents of MI small cell technology systems debate before Energy Policy Committee

As two Senate bills raised the notion of setting standardized fees for wireless providers to pay to install small cell technology systems in municipal rights of way, supporters and opponents of the idea gathered before the House Energy Policy Committee this week to testify.

The debate focused primarily on the installation of a network of small cell wireless facilities atop poles and structures owned by the counties, cities, and townships of Michigan. While wireless providers are in support of the effort, municipalities are concerned that they would have no say in the amount of fees charged or if the cells could be installed at all. This fact even sparked Auburn Mayor Lee Kilbourn to denounce the plan as potentially unconstitutional.

“The last two state constitutions have been strong supporters of home rule,” Kilbourn said. “Section 29 of the Michigan Constitution requires that those who want to use our public right of way must obtain the consent from counties, cities, and townships. This basically takes that away from us.”

His fellow opponents allege that, at the least, the small cells would cut into local government authority over their own rights of way and lead to health problems for those sensitive to radiofrequency emissions produced by the devices. Further, it could cause severe loss of income for municipalities, as some charge fees to utilities, wireless providers, and cable companies for access to the public rights of way.

The committee has yet to take action either way. Despite hearing three and a half hours of testimony from both sides, state Rep. Gary Glenn (R-98th District), committee chair, said that more testimony is necessary before a decision can be reached.

This article originally ran on

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