Recently, the City of Cape Canaveral received an application—on behalf of Verizon Wireless—for the placement of a small wireless facility within the Harbor Heights Drive right-of-way near the public access beach crossover.
Understandably, this application has raised a number of local concerns and questions related to the placement of this facility, particularly among Harbor Heights residents. The following information is provided to help explain the City of Cape Canaveral’s limited role in processing this application and regulating the placement of small wireless facilities under Federal and Florida law.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, “America is in the midst of a transition to the next generation of wireless services, known as 5G” and other next-generation wireless services. Providers of communication services throughout America are increasingly looking to expand their small wireless networks within cities especially within public rights-of-way. In furtherance of this transition, both the Federal Government and the State of Florida are removing regulatory barriers that would unlawfully inhibit the deployment of infrastructure to support these services. One of the unfortunate consequences of Federal and State regulations is that such regulations have pre-empted most city control over the deployment of small wireless facilities. As such, cities, like the City of Cape Canaveral, are seriously inhibited or prevented from addressing local community concerns regarding the deployment of small wireless facilities. For example, under Federal law health impacts of cell site radiation are specifically excluded from local regulations. In addition, in 2019 the Florida Legislature amended the Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act (CS/HB 687) to further inhibit cities from addressing local concerns. Notable provisions of this Florida legislation include:
- A city must accept and process an application within a short period of time;
- Prohibits a city from imposing permit fees for the use of public rights-of-way by communication providers;
- Prohibits a city from requiring the submittal of certain information to include an inventory of communication facilities, a map indicating the location of such facilities or other information;
- Prohibits the city from requiring the placement of multiple antenna systems on a single utility pole;
- Prohibits the adoption or enforcement of any ordinance or regulation as to the placement or operation of communication facilities in a right-of-way;
- Prohibits the city from limiting the placement, by minimum separation distances, of small wireless facilities;
- Prohibits a city from requiring a demonstration that collocation of a small wireless facility on an existing structure is not legally or technically possible as a condition for granting a permit;
- Prohibits the city from requiring the placement of small wireless facilities on any specific utility pole or category of poles;
- Prohibits a city from requiring a meeting before filing an application;
- Prohibits a city from banning the installation of a new utility pole used to support the collocation of a small wireless facility;
- Prohibits a city to require direct or indirect public notification or a public meeting for the placement of communication facilities in the right-of-way;
- Prohibits a city from denying an application for collocation of a small wireless facility unless the application:
- Materially interferes with the safe operation of traffic control equipment;
- Materially interferes with sight lines or clear zones for transportation, pedestrians or public safety purposes;
- Materially interferes with the ADA or similar federal or state standards concerning pedestrian access or movement;
- Materially fails to comply with the 2010 edition of the FL DOT Utility Accommodation Manual; or
- Fails to comply with applicable codes (uniform building, fire, electrical, plumbing or mechanical codes).
The majority of small wireless facilities infrastructure consists of “small cells” located on existing and/or new utility poles. What differentiates 5G and the next generation of wireless facilities from the current 4G network is that it relies on a higher frequency band that does not travel as far as 4G. So, the network needs to be dense, with cells placed much closer together as the wireless traffic is limited to a significantly shorter range of 150 to 500 feet, depending on the surrounding environment (walls, trees, buildings, etc.)
The following is a list of frequently asked questions related to the deployment of small cell infrastructure:
- Are these systems safe for birds? These systems have not been shown to affect birds or other wildlife.
- How is this different from services such as Comcast or AT&T U-Verse? Those services primarily deliver “wired” internet, cable television and landline phone service without antennas; though there are many cable strand (antenna) modems (providing Wi-Fi service) that can be found on overhead communication lines, strung between wooden utility poles.
- Do these systems generate noise or light? No. The antennas themselves do not generate noise or vibration. Noise is typically created by cooling fans; however the proposed equipment enclosures use passive cooling, without cooling fans. Additionally, there are no lights used by the proposed equipment or antennas.
- Are new utility poles and equipment cabinets being proposed? Yes. A new 32-foot metal pole is being proposed near the public access beach crossover. There are no ground-mounted cabinets (surface mounted facilities) or street trenching proposed. An antenna as well as its associated equipment will be mounted (low-profile) on the new pole.
- What is the range of this system? That depends on a number of factors (e.g. nearby buildings blocking signals and the presence of trees), but on average, these systems have an approximate range of 150 to 500 feet, due to their low-profile mounting height and low power output. For comparison purposes, a typical rooftop-mounted “macro” facility, with higher power usage and a higher-profile mounting location; can have a range of between one (1) mile in a rural area, or down to a quarter (.25) mile in a more urban area.
- Do these networks replace cell towers or the use of wireless (panel) antennas on building rooftops? No. These systems are generally intended to complement cell towers and existing networks of (micro/macro) rooftop sites throughout Cape Canaveral area. While most areas in the City have reliable mobile voice coverage, wireless carriers are typically proposing these sites to complement the existing high-profile macro rooftop sites and offer improved high-speed data coverage for mobile users with smaller (comparatively low-profile and lower power) facilities closer to sidewalk and street level. The use of small cells on steel light and transit poles may lessen the demand for the overall number (or specific size) of larger macro rooftop sites.
Regarding the small wireless facility proposed in Harbor Heights, City Staff has been working with Verizon’s consultant within the boundaries of Federal and Florida law to lessen the facility’s visual and aesthetic impact on surrounding property owners. Verizon did agree to relocate the proposed facility from its originally location to one that will take advantage of the natural screening as well as modify the materials and color of the proposed pole to be more compatible with its surroundings.
Please contact David Dickey at (321) 868-1220, Ext. 118 should you have any questions.