Wireless Infrastructure Association Head Urges L.A. Mayor to Amend “Burdensome” Ordinance on Communications Facilities

Alexandria, Virginia / May 29, 2015 – The head of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association today urged Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to reject, amend, or otherwise closely revisit a newly signed city ordinance aimed at imposing “costly and untested requirements” on above-ground communications facilities. Left unchanged, L.A.’s new regulation could “jeopardize emergency services and undermine access to mobile wireless broadband data – and with it, economic growth – throughout Southern California,” said Jonathan Adelstein, PCIA’s President and CEO. 

“Citizens, businesses, and visitors to California depend on wireless services and devices in every aspect of their lives. Users increasingly rely on wireless service as their exclusive means of voice communication while at home. Over twenty-eight percent of households in Los Angeles County have ‘cut the cord,’ relying entirely on wireless phones,” PCIA wrote.

Nearly three-fourths of 9-1-1 and emergency calls originate from cell phones; other wireless devices, including laptops, tablets, smart watches, and scores of machines vital to business success and to the effective delivery of health care and education services depend on reliable access to broadband – a dependence that will grow exponentially in the years to come, Adelstein pointed out to the mayor.

On behalf of PCIA’s 220 members, Adelstein is petitioning the mayor to reconsider his approval of Council File 15-0050, an ordinance that would amend the Los Angeles Municipal Code to define communications facilities as “Class III Structures.” Such a move would subject wireless facilities to unwarranted standards that would undercut their construction and possibly prohibit future upgrades, Adelstein asserted.

“While PCIA and its members are committed to ensuring a reliable and resilient wireless network, especially in times of emergency, requiring Class III designations on all new communications support structures could stymie deployment and ultimately result in less broadband coverage and capacity in the future. Specific requirements imposed by California state law on wireless facilities, including time-limited permits, as well as stringent zoning requirements from municipalities throughout the state, make siting wireless infrastructure a difficult and time-consuming process. Imposing additional burdensome structural requirements could have a chilling effect on new wireless facility deployment and could constrain capacity at existing facilities,” PCIA wrote.

Further, imposing Class III construction requirements would impose significant time and cost to the deployment of wireless broadband, Adelstein noted. Currently, the vast majority of existing commercial wireless support structures are built to Class II standards; one PCIA member estimates that less than one percent of its towers qualify as Class III. PCIA members believe that costs would escalate between 30 to 200 percent if towers were forced to go from Class II to Class III.

“This costly, untested solution will not serve the broadband needs of Los Angeles’ consumers and businesses,” the letter concluded.

PCIA and its members first voiced concerns to the mayor last year, echoing concerns in an August 2014 letter from PCIA member Crown Castle that underscored how this change could affect the entire wireless infrastructure ecosystem.

View PCIA’s letter online here

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PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association is the principal organization representing the companies that build, design, own and manage telecommunications facilities throughout the world. Its over 220 members include carriers, infrastructure providers, and professional services firms.