News & Regulatory Updates
More than ever before, wireless technology has become vitally important to our everyday lives. Seemingly overnight, bedrooms and living rooms were transformed to offices and classrooms due to COVID-19. The
The following are COWA recommendations intended to apply to local government regulation impacting deployment of wireless networks. These principals represent ideals which the Association seeks to achieve during discussions with jurisdictions.
Regulations should encourage deployment of wireless infrastructure by all wireless carriers utilizing any wireless technology.
Consumers and businesses increasingly rely on wireless networks and the services and devices the network facilitates. Wireless networks are increasingly displacing other communication technologies. Wireless networks serve a vital role in social and economic welfare, and public safety such as E911. Regulations should encourage and promote network deployment to achieve network coverage and capacity objectives.
Promote a level playing field among all communication technologies through technologically and competitively neutral regulations.
Wireless network site selection is a highly technical and complex evaluation and decision-making process. The process requires application of field study and computerized modeling techniques incorporating proprietary network data and customer traffic demands. The evaluation cannot be accurately duplicated by 3rd party “experts”. Site selection and development incurs a substantial initial investment and substantial ongoing operations expense. Thus, “second guessing” carrier site selection or review of carrier site selection by “experts” which lack necessary tools and data is inappropriate and should be avoided.
Colorado Revised Statutes 38-5.5-101 et seq. grant right of access by telecommunications providers to occupy and utilize the public rights-of-way. Access must be provided on a competitively neutral basis without disadvantage, or create unreasonable requirements for entry. The amount of fees is limited and may not exceed costs directly incurred by jurisdictions.
Local jurisdictions have authority to apply zoning within the public rights-of-way but rarely do so. Alternatively, local jurisdictions typically have displaced zoning regulation of the public rights-of-way with separate rights-of way regulations, standards and specifications. Wireless carriers advocate the uniform application of right-of-way regulations as applied to all regulated users. Application of zoning regulations uniquely to wireless facilities when applied in the public right-of-way is unacceptable. Such inconsistency does not conform to the uniformity requirements of zoning law, and is likely inconsistent with the intent of C.R.S. 38-5.5-101 et seq.
Due to zoning regulations, early wireless network deployment encouraged coverage in commercial and industrial zones, and highway corridors. Residential coverage has suffered. Regulations should enable widespread deployment of wireless facilities sufficient to deliver high quality coverage and with abundant capacity to all residential areas. In recognition of the unique design sensitivity of facilities serving residential areas, specific strategies should be deployed by jurisdictions to accommodate and promote deployment. Strategies can include use of the public rights-of-way; local government and special district facilities and grounds; school districts and churches; and a right to attach to residential structures applying suitable residential design elements.
COWA acknowledges that the primary public concern of wireless facility placement is visual impact. Accordingly, COWA concurs with local government regulations intended to mitigate adverse visual impacts provided such measures are consistent with the following:
a. Visual impact mitigation techniques are appropriate to the neighborhood composition or zoning classification.
b. Visual impact mitigation requirements are intended to reduce the size of facilities or reduce visibility by shielding facilities by appropriate screening.
c. COWA seeks to avoid design regulations intended to disguise wireless facilities only by posing as design forms that do not look like wireless facilities, and specifically, design forms that increase visual impact.
The primary purpose of wireless regulation is to mitigate visual impact. As single purpose regulation, complex and lengthy processes are unnecessary. COWA urges simple, straightforward wireless regulations and process commensurate with this objective.
COWA advocates regulations that enable flexibility for deployments in proximity by multiple carriers to best mitigate visual impacts. This may include encouraging colocations on existing sites, other structures, or designs through streamlined procedures.
In order to mitigate visual impacts, COWA advocates placement of freestanding wireless facilities upon parcels away from view. This objective is usually best achieved by avoiding siting and setback requirements for wireless infrastructure far from property lines and should be no more stringent than for other similar structures.
The potential for structural failure of wireless facilities is not greater than other manmade structures, and typically involve geotechnical analysis, engineered foundations and engineered structures. Setback fall zones should be no more stringent than for other similar structures.
In addition to jurisdiction permits, wireless carriers typically must negotiate property rights to utilize private property. Regulations should provide sufficient flexibility reflecting carrier ability to acquire property rights.
Wireless facilities have parallels to the design and placement of many forms of development. COWA advocates uniformity and consistency with existing regulations applicable to similar structures and land uses, and resists restrictive regulations that are unique to wireless facilities. Jurisdiction review processes applicable to wireless facilities should fall within existing, standardized zoning procedures. Examples of unacceptable procedures include: any review process based on “hardship” such as a variance; and conditional or regulatory limits on the length of approvals which lapse and require renewal.