The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has enacted a law that streamlines the state’s review process for collocation and modification of wireless facilities to existing wireless infrastructure and other vertical support structures.
The statute, S.B. 1345, builds upon the federal collocation/modification provision within the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 by: limiting local review costs; eliminating justifications of RF, technical or business need of a wireless facility; and broadening facilities modifications subject to streamlined review to include water towers, electric transmission towers, utility poles, buildings and other vertical infrastructure. The bill also establishes a statewide shot clock for collocation/modification application review, which includes a “deemed approved” resolution if the application is not acted upon within 90 days.
PCIA worked with the Pennsylvania Wireless Association (PWA), wireless carriers and other interested groups, conducting advocacy outreach at the state level. PCIA and PWA testified in support of the bill and industry proposed amendments, coordinated support for the legislation, and engaged in other lobbying efforts.
While the collocation verbiage in Section 6409a of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 has been criticized as being vague, S.B. 1345 is replete with an abundance of definitions.
Perhaps the most controversial omission in Section 6409a was how to determine if the proposed changes to an existing tower would “substantially change” the structure and therefore not qualify for collocation by right.
The Pennsylvania wireless collocation and modification bill defined a substantial change as any increase in the height of the wireless support structure by more than 10 percent or 20 feet above the nearest existing antenna, whichever is greater. The mounting may exceed the size limits if it is necessary to avoid interference with existing antennas. Municipal approval will be required, however, if the wireless support structure has already been extended by more than 10 percent or by the height of one additional antenna array.
The measure defines collocation as the placement, replacement or modification of accessory equipment or installation of new wireless telecom facilities on previously approved and constructed wireless support structures or equipment compounds, including self-supporting or guyed monopoles and towers, electrical transmission towers, water towers or any other structure not classified as a wireless support structure that can support the placement or installation of wireless telecommunications.
The legislature’s view of what constitutes a “wireless support structure” is very expansive. The definition includes any freestanding structure that could support the placement or installation of wireless telecommunications, including a guyed or self-supporting monopole or tower, electrical transmission tower, water tower or other structure not classified as a wireless support structure.
The bill goes on to define accessory equipment, antenna, base station, electrical transmission tower, equipment compound, modification, water tower, wireless telecommunications facility.