Press-Republican

Environment

January 24, 2014

Adirondack groups challenge FCC towers law

ELIZABETHTOWN — A coalition of 10 environmental and public-interest groups is concerned with proposed federal cell-tower zoning rules.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission laws would govern cell-tower expansion, regardless of local zoning.

That means, essentially, that Communications Towers Policy crafted and maintained by the Adirondack Park Agency would not apply if a telecommunications company wanted to increase its tower’s capacity, height and size for expansion or equipment co-location.

The Adirondack Council raised the alarm locally, in part because the FCC’s move to assume jurisdiction has not been vetted by the public.

“This change in legislation occurred as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012,” Council spokesman John Sheehan told the Press-Republican.

“This rule would say that if you had a (telecommunications tower) application before a local entity, the FCC would consider it approved.”

FOUR CRITERIA

The federal government is proposing four criteria for “material increase” in tower height and size, without regard for site-specific regulations maintained by APA’s “substantially invisible” clause.

“The FCC rule allows for a 10 percent or more expansion in height or to essentially double the (cell tower’s) profile sideways,” Sheehan said.

The move toward federal jurisdiction is meant to accelerate broadband access across the United States.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the Broadband Acceleration Initiative would “accelerate private and public investment to strengthen our nation’s communications networks.

“Just as is the case for our nation’s roads and bridges, we must continue to invest in improvements to cell towers and transmission equipment, in order to ensure ubiquitous, high-speed Internet for all Americans,” she said in a recent news release.

“To keep pace with technological advances ... our policies must continue to adapt.”

‘MORE LAX’

But the FCC rules would be more lax than APA and some local government rules, Sheehan countered.

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