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Small Cell Equipment in Public ROW and GMA TRM Program

February 14, 2018  |  GMA Telecommunications & Right of Way Management Staff
70' Pole in a Georgia City's Downtown
Many cities have worked with telecommunications companies seeking to place equipment on water tank towers and cell towers on public rights of way (ROW). As these companies increasingly compete for better wireless coverage, they have begun to rely more on specialty companies such as Mobilitie, Crown Castle, and Uniti Fiber to approach cities about placing “small cells” in the public right of way.
 
Small cells add additional wireless bandwidth to existing cell tower networks to signals for heavily trafficked locations that existing cell towers have trouble reaching. For example, small cells add enough bandwidth to keep a strong signal going in heavy populated events (such as a sporting event), parking garages, or large buildings. Over the past year, small cell antenna companies have contacted cities throughout Georgia about installing small cell utility poles in municipal rights of way and/or placing equipment on existing poles.  While cities support new technologies that improve or enhance coverage, these proposals may pose potential problems and conflicts with a city’s right of way, including requirements for public safety, zoning, and aesthetics. For example, the photo shows a 70’ pole that a company recently installed on a street in a Georgia city’s downtown. The city did not know they had a choice to negotiate with the company to propose a different location for the pole or to require the company to collocate equipment on a nearby water tower. To prevent this from happening to your city, it is important to respond to these companies in a way that reiterates a city's right and responsibility to manage our rights of way. 
 
We encourage you to call GMA before you sign any lease document for use of a water tower, public land or public facility or to respond to any request to reduce your rent, to extend the term of a lease or a proposal to buy out a lease. These types of proposals are usually not written in a city’s best interest and can have long lasting consequences to a city and its citizens.  GMA offers a Telecommunications and Right of Way Management (TRM) program and we can help you negotiate an agreement with the company that will facilitate deployment of telecom services in the city while complying with municipal regulations, state law, and protection of the public rights of way. There is no cost to call us for information if you are approached by a telecom company.
 
For more information, please contact GMA’s technical expert for this program, Greg Fender, Local Government Services, (706-482-9933) or ghfender@windstream.net), or Alan Dickerson, GMA Director of Training and Member Services Administration, at 678-686-6213 or adickerson@gmanet.com.
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