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DuPage, IL proposes small cell antenna ordinance

DuPage County is looking to enact local rules that officials hope will mitigate the downside of wireless companies installing small cell antennas on publicly owned utility poles, streetlights and rights of way.

Gov. Bruce Rauner in April signed the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, despite strong objections from DuPage and other counties and municipalities across the state.

The new state law prevents local governments from prohibiting, regulating or charging for the installation, mounting, maintaining, operating or replacement of the small cell antennas.

Supporters say the change will attract investment in the latest wireless networks in Illinois and result in faster mobile internet and more jobs, they argue.

Putting the antenna boxes on existing streetlights and utility poles will allow 5G technology to be rolled out in a quicker manner, supporters say.

Opponents, meanwhile, argued the state law limits the authority of municipalities and counties to control the location and deployment of the antennas. It also imposes artificially low fees for both the review of permit applications and the use of publicly owned equipment.

"We opposed it from day one," county board member Don Puchalski said of the state law. "We didn't think it was reasonable. We didn't think it was necessary. It was shoved down our throats."

But with an Aug. 1 deadline approaching for counties and municipalities to enact ordinances, Puchalski said DuPage will work with wireless companies on how to implement the change.

Christopher Snyder, director of transportation, said the county began by drafting an ordinance that addressees issues not included in the state law.

For example, wireless service providers will be encouraged to locate their small cell antennas in areas away from busy public locations, including parks, schools and recreational facilities.

DuPage's proposed ordinance also establishes line-of-sight requirements to ensure the visibility of all users (motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians) isn't obstructed by small cell antennas.

Wireless service providers also would be required to enter into pole attachment agreements, which require them to pay a $200 annual fee for each device that's installed on county infrastructure.

Still, county officials acknowledge the fee could have been significantly more had it not been for the state law.

"Obviously, we're very unhappy with this law," county board member Tim Elliott said. But he said county staff members have done as good a job as they could drafting the proposed ordinance.

The county board is expected to vote next week on the "wireless telecommunications facilities" ordinance.

Snyder said it's not yet clear how many small cell antennas will be installed on county-owned streetlights and traffic signals. The county government owns about 340 traffic signals and roughly 1,000 streetlights.

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