Court flips on regulated wireless towers

The always-intriguing Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, possibly knowing that CTIA was in town, has changed direction and said that cities and counties can regulate the location and appearance of wireless towers and poles. The court had been using a 2001 ruling but, in an 11-0 decision, said it had been misinterpreting federal law.

The new ruling was based on an appeal by San Diego County which in 2003 adopted an ordinance that required poles be camouflaged in residential areas, set height limits and required companies to submit visual impact analysis. It also allowed the zoning board to deny an application if it didn't meet community standards. The ordinance had twice been overturned before Thursday's reinstatement.

There are still some rules for communities. While they can regulate the appearance of cell towers and poles, they can't prohibit service within their borders or create a "significant gap in service coverage," the court ruled.

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