As a result of the growing demand for high speed wireless data used by mobile phones and other wireless devices, private cellular companies are installing Small Cell facilities that take data traffic from traditional cell towers (also called Macro Cells) to enable service at a higher capacity. Small Cell facilities will support existing and future demands for mobile wireless data connectivity the public uses daily.
Radiofrequency (RF) emissions are a common concern heard from citizens and are regulated by the FCC, not the City. Federal law prevents local governments from regulating wireless facilities based on health or environmental effects of RF emissions. Local governments can only require that carriers certify that they comply with the federal regulations for RF emissions.
Small Cell facilities are low-powered antennas that provide cellular and data coverage to smaller geographic areas, which assists in adding additional coverage to a larger cellular network. Small Cell equipment will initially meet current 4G (LTE) voice and data demands but is rapidly evolving to provide future 5G higher speed data services as technology changes.
Pursuant to Federal and State law, Small Cell equipment is allowed in public right of way, similar to other utilities. Small Cells are proposed to be located on poles, light poles, and/or traffic signals, but may also be placed on utility poles (with utility provider consent) or on private property (with property owner consent).
Federal and state laws limit the City’s authority over Small Cells. The City cannot prevent the siting of Small Cells in the right-of-way (ROW). Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (the “FCC”) issued guidance and adopted rules to streamline the process for deployment of Small Cells. This process leaves little regulatory authority for local governments other than regulation based upon objective design standards and reasonable aesthetic considerations such as height.
In 2017, Colorado enacted a law making the siting, mounting, placement, construction and operation of small cell facilities and networks a permitted use by right in any land use zone. As a result, local governments in Colorado cannot prohibit small cell sites in any zone district, including residential. These laws specify that cities may not entirely deny or discriminate against Small Cell infrastructure and must treat the equipment in the same way as other permitted users and utilities in the ROW.