Community Wireless Due Diligence
As a result of community wireless due diligence, local citizens might develop emotions to oppose an application for wireless facility development and permit proceedings of any nature can get ugly. Otherwise presumably calm and honest people can turn livid at the thought of someone building something in their neighborhood that they perceive they are not benefiting from, profiting from, or desiring. In fact, it only takes one person with the time to stew over a proposal to do just enough research to twist the truth, organize a petition drive, and fuel a flame of emotions in others who can scare the otherwise-willing planning commission, city council, or county board enough to throw a well-designed, benign wireless facility proposal under the bus and defeat it. A goal in wireless facility permit rights development is not to ever get to that point.
What a wireless facility looks like seems to be the most-discussed topic of concern regarding new cell site proposals, whether for a macro cell or a microcell. In a conversation about the aesthetic nature of antenna facilities, diametrically opposed points of view may surface quickly. Elevating antennas high above ground level, a necessity to propagate radio signals to wireless customers is objectionable to those who don’t want to see radio antennas in midair. A comparison of visual impact considers how a landscape appears without the proposed installation and how it will look after the facility is installed.
The least visual impact is possible when a structure already exists. read more…
Existing Communications Structures
Throughout this curriculum, collocation has been stressed as the most desirable form of new wireless facility development. This is because collocation minimizes risk in the process of securing permit rights. Until Congress passed the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (the 2012 Act) it was lawful for local jurisdictions on the basis of aesthetics to scrutinize permit rights applications for antenna collocation on existing communications structures, and many jurisdictions across the country did so. Section 6409(a) of the 2012 Act makes it unlawful for state and local government to deny requests for collocations on existing wireless towers provided the attachments won’t substantially change the physical dimensions of the structure.1
Unless a multiple-story building already has wireless facilities installed on the rooftop it doesn’t qualify for treatment under the 2012 Act. Existing buildings provide an alternative to communication structures and water towers for antenna placement. Antennas placed on the tops of multi-story buildings can be pre-painted by the manufacturer to match the color of the exterior of any building. Antennas placed on rooftops can be screened with a solid surface façade that is RF transparent to block the view of the antennas from surrounding locations but not the reception and transmission of radio signals.1 Jurisdictions vary as to the strictness of their treatment regarding rooftop antennas. Nevertheless, multiple-story buildings offer many opportunities to satisfy the aesthetic desires of local communities.
Standard and Aesthetically Designed Monopoles
Standard monopole towers are designed for a vertical waveguide to be placed in the cavity of the pole extending from the associated equipment on the ground to the antennas; however, the antennas are placed on the outside of the pole. While standard monopoles feature a single sleek profile of a structure, the antennas are clearly visible from the surrounding area. Flag and Tree-pole antenna structures are popular variations of monopole towers. Flag-pole-style structures are made for antennas to fit inside the cavity of the pole, while tree-pole-style towers are made for the antennas to be hidden in the artificial branches of the tree on the outside of the pole. read more…
Concerning visual aesthetics, local jurisdictions may prompt or require wireless facility permit rights applicants to provide photographic simulations of the proposed installation. The planning staff may specify locations in proximity to the proposed facility from which the photo simulations shall be developed, or they may leave that to the applicant. As discussed in Module 20 Site Design- Supplemental Drawings and Reports, an A&E firm can usually help with the development of photo simulations and associated site line profiles. The basic requirements to develop photo simulations are read more…
Particularly in remote suburban areas where residents have migrated to escape the noise and the busyness of the city, residents enjoy their ability to clearly see stars in the night sky. Any lights in the area may detract from the quality of star gazing in the neighborhood, giving the neighbors a reason to complain. This could be a reason to read more…
Painted Towers or Poles
Sometimes a member of the community or the planning staff gets the idea that a structure should match the blue sky when the standard finish for communications towers and poles is already galvanized sky-blue steel. While facility developers understand the need for stealth structures and can have pole manufacturers match the color of tree bark, for instance, requirements to paint a tower or pole sky blue on someone’s whim are considered excessive local regulation. If painting is imposed by the FAA, that’s different. Assure jurisdictions that the site operator will comply with any requirements imposed by the FAA regarding paint.
As discussed above, collocation is a benefit aesthetically in the quest for permit approval. To take the issue further, jurisdictions often desire that permits for new structures are approved with the condition that the new structure can accommodate collocation by additional carriers in the future. Will the new structure, for instance, eliminate the need for more towers to be installed in the area in the future? When a tower company is the facility developer, it goes without saying that the facility operator’s business focus is on the provision of space rights for wireless carriers in exchange for rent. It’s also common for wireless carriers developing new macro cell structures, especially in densely populated areas, to have their structures designed for future collocation. Not only will the first wireless carrier on a structure routinely make room for another carrier, but they’ll also allow room for their own expansion of antennas.
Public Agency Collocation
Most local governments operate their own radio communications systems, as well as their own communications towers. Some jurisdictions allow wireless carriers to lease space on their publicly owned towers; others won’t. When local boards and commissions control the approval of permits for new wireless facilities they often ask if the facility developer will agree to make space available to agencies of the local jurisdiction, primarily the sheriff’s office, public safety department, or police department. Most wireless carriers and tower companies are open to this as a measure of good community relations.
Federal Communications Commission Licensing
Local jurisdictions commonly request that wireless facility developers provide documentation to verify the FCC license under which the proposed facility will operate. The RF engineer can provide license information regarding any planned site. A wireless carrier’s license information for a given market can be found on the FCC website, in the Universal Licensing System (ULS) Database.1
License information available on the FCC website may be found by searching the database read more…
The Wireless Facility Developer’s Need for Permit Rights vs. Just a Perceived Want
Some members of the community, including the planning staff, may question a wireless carrier’s true need for a new facility or challenge a wireless operator’s lack of wireless infrastructure in the neighborhood and need for more. Since it takes a significant amount of time to go through the wireless site acquisition, permitting, and construction cycle, wireless carriers need to plan ahead as much as possible. Wireless facilities are expensive. It’s in wireless carriers’ best interests to invest finite resources in new sites where the greatest demand exists to obtain the highest return on investment for the shareholders. Compelling arguments need to be effectively communicated read more…
System Capacity and Speed
Wireless carriers conduct ongoing analysis across the board to monitor the growth of demand on system capacity and its impact on the customer experience. When throughput speeds decline due to increasing demands on the system, customers pay the price by waiting for a slow network. Neighbors of the proposed project site might say, “It doesn’t seem to be a problem to use my personal wireless device most anywhere I go.” Well, that might be the case today but the operations people with the wireless carriers know how much capacity the network has today, what the trends are, and when the service capacity can be expected to degrade beyond customer expectation. read more…
RF Engineering Support
While the RF engineer may be busy with routine network responsibilities, if a permit rights application requires technical support to make the case why a new site is vitally needed, the RF engineer may need to make time to answer some questions related to planning staff or community inquiries. Much of the knowledge that an RF engineer has about the network is considered proprietary and for competitive reasons normally not made public. While the basic objective of the new facility may have been stated in the search area assignment, what officials on local jurisdiction boards really want is to be educated read more…
The impact a wireless facility may have on the value of adjacent lots is a common concern cited by neighboring property owners that are opposed to a permit application. The impact on property values from wireless facilities is difficult, if not impossible, to prove or disprove. Proximity to traffic lights, telephone and power poles, highway interchanges, and metro rail terminals have impacts on property values. Wireless facilities and these other types of essential service functions are located everywhere to serve people where they are. Only a small percentage of homes in America do not have access to local landline telephone service. This is becoming true about wireless communications. Nevertheless, growth is necessary to keep up with the demand for capacity and to maintain signal strength.
Many factors impact property values, read more…
A basic human need is safety. A major role of government is to provide public safety. As discussed in Module 1 Industry Structure, the federal government mandated the development of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) in the 2012 Act to link the communications of local and state public safety agencies across the US for first responders in times of crisis. Local governments are responsible for keeping their constituents safe as well. On the ecological spectrum, whether the topic is children’s toys or nuclear power plants, people want safety. Likewise, confirmation needs to be conveyed to the community about how safe the proposed wireless facilities are.
Ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation
The topic of EMR can become an emotional issue. Those who oppose wireless facilities often seek to fan the flames of concern. There are two types of electromagnetic radiation: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Wireless communications radio waves and microwaves are examples of non-ionizing radiation. X-rays and ultraviolet light are examples of ionizing radiation.1
Radio Frequency Safety
Keeping a safe distance from transmitting antennas and outside of the near field is a viable solution to concerns about RFE generated from wireless facilities. Fortunately, the very nature of mobile radio communications is that the system antennas need to be elevated off the ground. In most situations getting into and staying in the near field of a wireless facility requires the ability to be suspended in midair close to the antennas. Wireless industry technicians, tower workers, and other equipment installers occasionally must work within close range of active antennas. Occupational exposure is a component of the safety standard for radio frequency emissions.
The appropriate manner to address questions regarding electromagnetic radiation is to obtain a signed, written confirmation from an authorized representative of the wireless carrier on letterhead to the effect that the carrier promises to operate its license as authorized and regulated by the FCC in providing quality wireless communications throughout the market coverage area, and that the antennas proposed and designed for the specific wireless facility in question will remain in compliance with all applicable FCC requirements. A further statement from the wireless carrier should substantiate that the equipment to be used meets applicable safety and regulatory standards.
Site Design Precautions
Wireless site operators are serious about the security of their facilities. Common practice is to fence wireless antenna facilities and structures for protection from access by intruders and curious children and adolescents. The standard is a six-foot-tall chain-link fence topped with another foot or two of barbed wire. The A&E firm drawings should verify that the proposed installation demonstrates these or other site security measures specified by the jurisdiction. Wireless facilities are typically equipped with fault alarms so that the network operations center (NOC) can detect unauthorized entry. Armed with the non-emergency 911/E911 phone number for each community (obtained by the site acquisition consultant), NOC personnel in a remote state can quickly alert authorities when a fault alarm is triggered if the situation is appropriate.
Structural Design Standards
Reputable wireless facility developers install poles and towers that meet the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Tower Industries Association (TIA), and Electronic Industries Association 222 standard (ANSI/TIA 222) for steel antenna towers and supporting structures. Two versions of the ANSI/TIA 222 standard have commonly been used for structure design by wireless facility developers. They are the ANSI/TIA 222 Revision G standard and ANSI/TIA 222 Revision F standard. Get to know which version of the standard is being specified by the client and the project team and to what fall radius the structure is designed.1
Neighbors of proposed wireless sites may want to know how much noise the facility will generate. Sound levels vary based on the distance from the source of the sound. As the distance from a sound source increases, the decibel or amplitude level is reduced by the relative distance away from the source squared. This means the level of sound at ten feet from a source is reduced to one-ninth at thirty feet and one-twenty-fifth at fifty feet. When the distance is tripled from a sound source, the sound level is reduced by a factor of nine. Yes, this is another application of the inverse square rule.
Wireless sites with generators create sound as associated radio equipment might. read more…
Communities often express concerns that businesses may decline and constructed facilities will be abandoned, leaving an unmaintained facility to be addressed locally. As discussed in the Module 24 Lease Provisions, wireless site leases routinely include a clause stating that upon the termination of the agreement the site owner will restore the property to its original condition. When asked, confirm for the jurisdiction that the wireless developer is bound by the agreement to restore the property to its original condition upon termination of the agreement.