During the 85th Texas Legislature adopted Senate Bill 1004 that enacts new Chapter 284 of the Texas Local Government Code requiring all Texas municipalities to grant access to wireless telecommunications companies to place cellular antennae and equipment ("small cell nodes" or “5G”) in public rights-of-way and on municipal light poles, traffic poles, street signs, and utility poles. Typically, small cells are attached to the aforementioned existing poles (e.g., utility, light, and traffic control poles) or other existing structures, but sometimes new poles are built to accommodate the facilities. Small cells, like Wi-Fi systems, have limited range. Therefore, an extensive network of these installations is necessary to provide widespread coverage for a community.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also approved sweeping regulations in September 2018 for 5G wireless infrastructure, significantly curtailing the authority of states and localities. The industry-backed declaratory ruling includes several preemption provisions aimed at accelerating deployment of 5G networks that are expected to offer higher internet speeds.
The new law fixes artificially low caps on the fees cities may charge wireless companies to process requests to use public right-of-way and poles and on the rents cities may obtain for the private use of public right-of-way and assets that are well below cities' administrative costs and the value of the public spaces and assets required to be provided.
These caps are a taxpayer and electric-ratepayer subsidy to the cellular industry, granting the use of public property and resources to a private industry for a price below cities' costs and at a fraction of the value of the public space provided, denying cities fair and reasonable compensation for the use of public rights-of-way and infrastructure.
The law also imposes administrative deadlines for reviewing permit applications for small cell nodes that, if not met, grant the permit by default, and severely limits the Towns’ discretion and regulation over placement and aesthetics.
SB 1004 and FCC regulations greatly limit the Town’s ability to control the aesthetic impacts of cellular infrastructure in the public streets and rights-of-way – including control over the placement of poles that may reach up to 55 feet in height - and may require cities to allow placement of facilities on electric utility infrastructure located on private property.[WC1] Many existing poles will not be tall enough, be built to withstand the extra load, or would have to be replaced to accommodate the small cell antennas. The poles are allowed to be anywhere in Town right-of-way (ROW) which covers the public roadways, medians, and approximately 10’ on either side of the road.
In Trophy Club, there are three existing 30’ black AT&T poles that will have all equipment and antennas inside (stealth)[WC2] with the purpose of improving cellular service in the area by “pinging” off the larger antennas found on our water towers. Small cells are akin to Wi-Fi-networks in that their coverage is limited, typically 300 to 500 feet, requiring providers to deploy hundreds of the devices to cover relatively small areas.
So if you see these poles popping up around Trophy Club, now you will have a better understanding of what they are and why they are going up.
Below are the construction renderings for the Indian Creek installation. Please note, the actual installations may vary slightly.
SB 1004 - Small Cells Regulations
TC Design Manuel - Final
Construction Drawings - Indian Creek & Shields