Delaware becomes latest state to streamline rules for small cell deployments

Nokia small cell
States are increasingly considering legislation to ease small cell deployments.

Delaware became the latest state to pass legislation aimed at streamlining policies for the siting and deployment of small cells. And unlike some other states, Delaware’s effort apparently didn’t face much vocal opposition.

As expected, Gov. John Carney yesterday signed House Bill 189—dubbed the Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Investment Act—which enables carriers and their partners to apply to place small cells on public rights-of-way directly through the state’s department of transportation. The bill passed the Delaware General Assembly in July unanimously, according to The Coastal Point, a local media outlet.

Naturally, the wireless industry was quick to praise the move.

“With Governor Carney’s signature on this bill, Delaware took another step toward the future,” Denis Dunn, president of AT&T in Delaware, said in a press release. “The governor recognizes that a strong mobile broadband infrastructure is important to the state’s continued economic competitiveness and leadership. The new law also will help enhance the delivery of government services through ‘smart city’ technology and lay the foundation that will support technologies of the future.”

Carriers are increasingly looking to the small transmitters to boost capacity and expand coverage, but the market has been stymied by zoning and permitting headaches. Transmitters are often placed on new poles that can be 120 feet or taller, and confusion abounds regarding public rights-of-way. Those concerns have raised the ire of residents, community groups and municipalities seeking more control over small cell deployments in their markets.

CTIA has urged state governments to enact legislation to make it easier to deploy small cells, and at least 20 states are in various stages of moving forward with legislation that would grant small cell vendors easier access to public property. Those efforts have often been greeted with local push-back, though: More than 250 California cities have spoken against a proposed law that would significantly limit local control over small cell placements, for instance.

“The town council of Ship Bottom, N.J., voted unanimously to approve changes to the town’s land use code, specifically targeting wireless infrastructure,” Robert Gutman of Guggenheim Equity Research wrote in a recent research note. “Additionally, the city council of Lancaster, PA changed its zoning rules to prevent the deployment of small cells on public rights-of-way. These towns are the latest examples of a trend we have been seeing—an increase of towns taking steps to slow down the deployment of small cells.”

California’s bill, SB 649, is still being debated and will be voted on today by the state’s Assembly Appropriations Committee.

This story was updated September 1 with the correct spelling of Dunn's name.