New technology making its way across the country to help provide faster networks for cell phone users and telecommunications may be allowed in some areas of Tehachapi in the near future, but not without zoning limits.
Telecommunications companies across the country are placing small antennas the size of a backpack on telephone poles, buildings, street lights and other areas.
An urgency ordinance passed by the City Council Monday night helps regulate the requests from companies applying for a permit, for which the city has 60 to 90 days to reply. This provision takes effect Jan. 14, and the city needs to have regulations in place prior to permit requests, according to documents in the Jan. 7 City Council agenda.
It’s the “next wave of technology for wireless carriers,” said Corey Costelloe, assistant to the city manager. He added, “The city of Tehachapi zoning code addresses some telecommunications facilities, but it does not address the new 5G small cell wireless technology and therefore requires the attached urgency ordinance.”
Companies are deploying ways to provide 5G networks, but the new technology could be placed in commercial zones and not in front private residences, Costelloe said.
A “Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order” from the Federal Communications Commission limits restrictions municipalities can put on small cell facilities, but cities can still take into account concerns such as public safety, noise and aesthetics, according to a document included with the council agenda.
“This is an urgency ordinance, not allowing them to go forward," Councilman Phil Smith said. "It's allowing us time to see what we can do to regulate locally and have local control.”
Many companies using large cell phone towers to provide service to their customers are now furthering their services to meet 5G services.
This ordinance may limit some companies' ability to provide services.
“We use two small cell designs throughout the country and due to the ordinance presented last night at the City Council meeting, we will not be able to use those in Tehachapi,” Christine Moore, director of external affairs for AT&T California, said Jan. 8.
The company submitted a letter to the City Council on Jan. 7 to request that the decision be postponed for 30 days to “allow the city to gather input from industry participants and subject matter experts” and “greater collaboration and discussion on how small cells can improve the city’s technology assets.”
Moore added, “It supports the existing network in areas where there is higher demand or greater need for capacity. It also supports framework for smart city applications.” The applications could include air quality or police department crime monitoring, Moore said.