Wireless Communication Facilities Code Rewrite

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Wireless technology is constantly evolving. As smart phone usage has increased substantially in recent years, wireless service providers have had to adapt their networks to meet increased demand. To do this, providers are deploying small cell wireless communication facilities to boost capacity and improve data speeds. In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed laws that aim to expedite deployment of these small cell networks nation-wide.

In response, the City will rewrite the chapter of its municipal code that regulates all wireless communication facilities: small cell wireless facilities and the larger macro facilities. This comprehensive rewrite will include updates for permitting, location, and design/aesthetics of all wireless communication facilities within the parameters of federal law.

REGULATIONS

Federal regulations limit what local jurisdictions can do to regulate the deployment of wireless communication facilities, including small cell facilities. The table below describes some of the limitations the city has in regulating the deployment of wireless facilities as well as areas the city can regulate.


What the City is limited in regulating:
What the City can regulate:
  • Can’t deny the facilities
  • Restricted permit review times
  • Can't regulate radio frequency
  • Charge unreasonable fees
  • Design standards must be reasonable
  • Can’t prohibit deployment
  • Design and concealment standards
  • Develop siting criteria
  • Charge reasonable fees
  • Conduct environmental review
  • Regulate in public right of way
  • Regulate antenna attachments



SMALL CELL TECHNOLOGY

Small cells use small antennas and radios to add capacity and coverage to the existing 4G (fourth generation) wireless network and facilitate the roll-out of 4G and 5G (fifth generation) technology. Small cells must be placed lower and spaced more closely than the large cell facilities of today.

The City may specify a preferred design or concealment technique for these facilities. Potential preferred concealment techniques include: cells mounted to buildings; attached to a light pole/utility pole; or located within a wireless-only pole.



Graphic representations of possible concealment techniques for Small Cells. Source: National League of Cities

REGULATING TELECOMMUNICATION RADIO FREQUENCY EMISSIONS

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), and not the City, has the sole authority over regulating human exposure to radio frequency emissions under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The FCC has adopted rules governing radio frequency emissions. More information about radio frequency emissions can be found on the FCC’s website, at: https://www.fcc.gov/engineering-technology/electromagnetic-compatibility-division/radio-frequency-safety/faq/rf-safety#Q27. The City is prohibited by federal law from banning wireless communication facilities if they meet federal regulatory standards.


Once the City has prepared a draft Wireless Communication Facilities ordinance, it will be available on this website for public review and comment.


Wireless technology is constantly evolving. As smart phone usage has increased substantially in recent years, wireless service providers have had to adapt their networks to meet increased demand. To do this, providers are deploying small cell wireless communication facilities to boost capacity and improve data speeds. In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed laws that aim to expedite deployment of these small cell networks nation-wide.

In response, the City will rewrite the chapter of its municipal code that regulates all wireless communication facilities: small cell wireless facilities and the larger macro facilities. This comprehensive rewrite will include updates for permitting, location, and design/aesthetics of all wireless communication facilities within the parameters of federal law.

REGULATIONS

Federal regulations limit what local jurisdictions can do to regulate the deployment of wireless communication facilities, including small cell facilities. The table below describes some of the limitations the city has in regulating the deployment of wireless facilities as well as areas the city can regulate.


What the City is limited in regulating:
What the City can regulate:
  • Can’t deny the facilities
  • Restricted permit review times
  • Can't regulate radio frequency
  • Charge unreasonable fees
  • Design standards must be reasonable
  • Can’t prohibit deployment
  • Design and concealment standards
  • Develop siting criteria
  • Charge reasonable fees
  • Conduct environmental review
  • Regulate in public right of way
  • Regulate antenna attachments



SMALL CELL TECHNOLOGY

Small cells use small antennas and radios to add capacity and coverage to the existing 4G (fourth generation) wireless network and facilitate the roll-out of 4G and 5G (fifth generation) technology. Small cells must be placed lower and spaced more closely than the large cell facilities of today.

The City may specify a preferred design or concealment technique for these facilities. Potential preferred concealment techniques include: cells mounted to buildings; attached to a light pole/utility pole; or located within a wireless-only pole.



Graphic representations of possible concealment techniques for Small Cells. Source: National League of Cities

REGULATING TELECOMMUNICATION RADIO FREQUENCY EMISSIONS

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), and not the City, has the sole authority over regulating human exposure to radio frequency emissions under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The FCC has adopted rules governing radio frequency emissions. More information about radio frequency emissions can be found on the FCC’s website, at: https://www.fcc.gov/engineering-technology/electromagnetic-compatibility-division/radio-frequency-safety/faq/rf-safety#Q27. The City is prohibited by federal law from banning wireless communication facilities if they meet federal regulatory standards.


Once the City has prepared a draft Wireless Communication Facilities ordinance, it will be available on this website for public review and comment.


Q&A

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    Who owns the streetlights in our neighborhoods? I can think of several possible candidates... the HOA, City of Sammamish, PSE or another entity?

    SammamishResident asked 8 months ago

    Thank you for taking the time to ask your question. Most street lights in the City are owned by Home Owners Associations. However, there are instances where the City or a utility provider may own the street lights. If you are in a Home Owners Association, chances are the street lights are owned by your HOA. To verify, check with your HOA. You may also see on your electric bill an apportionment for paying part of the electric bill for a street light that may be owned by your HOA.


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    Is there a map of where current towers, both big and small, are?

    caguirre asked 9 months ago

    Thank you for your question! 

    While the City does not have a map showing the current locations of large or small cell deployment mapped, it is currently in the process of developing this map.  However, this mapping effort will not coincide with the update of the telecommunication code, which is under a different, tighter, timeline in order to gain compliance with required Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules. 

    The City does not have data (e.g. plans or maps) on private companies’ future deployment of wireless facilities, as that data is proprietary. 

    Let us know if you have any other questions or concerns.

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    Can the city set height requirements for small cell technology? Example 25 feet off the ground as a minimum height for wireless signal. Some people’s bodies are more sensitive so if they are going to be difficult to spot (being hidden behind signs), it would be best to put as much space as reasonable between people and the signal.

    Aime asked 11 months ago

    Thanks for your question, Aime. The good news is that, in general, telecommunication providers like to have their small cell towers between 30 and 50 feet off the ground for the signal to be able to reach the next small cell tower.

    That being said, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted regulations that limit the local regulations a City can adopt and apply to a telecommunication provider, but we will investigate this further to determine if setting a minimum height would be allowed.


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    What impact will the code rewrite have on citizens?

    12 months ago

    In the near-term, there will be minimal impact, but as wireless providers start to deploy their small cell networks, we will see faster data speeds and fewer gaps in coverage. Eventually, you will see small cells dispersed city-wide. In addition, there could be development of more macro towers, which are the backbone of the wireless networks.  

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    You say we will have higher internet wireless speeds but you neglect to talk about the REAL harm these can cause people’s bodies. Is there a way to complain if you have health issues after one is installed near your home?

    Bec asked 3 months ago

    Hello and thank you for your question. Sole regulation of radio frequencies and radio frequency emissions lies with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While there is a near scientific consensus that the health risks associated with 5G technology are very low, any complaints associated with the health risks or effects of exposure to radio frequency energy should be directed to the FCC. For more information regarding the possible health effects of 5G, please see the “5G Health Effects White Paper” in the document library on our Connect Sammamish Page. Thank you!