More on the FCC's New Rule
Last fall the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a new rule that curtails the City’s authority to review small cells in a number of ways – notably the City cannot prevent the installation of small cells, or “densifying” the wireless coverage (page 16 of the PDF, item 36 and subsequent). This new rule also limits the City’s ability to require a change in the location of the small cell.
The FCC’s new rule has been appealed by a number of cities (including Bellevue, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles). To date, the appeal has not moved very far through the judicial process. Because the FCC’s new rule is “in force” until the appeal is resolved, the City has adopted interim standards (https://mercerisland.municipal.codes/MICC/19.06.070) that are intended to focus on minimizing the aesthetic impact to the extent feasible.
Longer term, the City is anticipating adoption of permanent standards that will also be intended to minimize the aesthetic impact of small cells. As a part of this future code amendment process things like enhanced limits on noise, requiring the undergrounding of power, creating incentives for co-location, and requiring hollow poles with internal equipment and antenna mounts will be discussed more fully by the Planning Commission and City Council.
Despite the City’s limited authority to affect the small cell locations, city staff are conveying the comments we have received to the permit applicant, Crown Castle, and staff will continue to advocate on behalf of the community.