New Legislation Small Cell Towers

Updated 5/23/20 

For an updated list of New Legislation in the United States and where the information below was obtained go to 15 States Protecting Citizens from Wireless Radiation 


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Cell Towers and City Ordinances


15 States Protecting Citizens From Wireless Radiation









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North Carolina


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New Proposed Federal and State Small Cell Antenna Laws will Remove Local Control

Only a handful of companies control all of the telecommunications in America. The Telecom industry has pushed state and now federal legislation to remove local oversight for placement of cell towers stated to be 5G  “small cell” antenna.  Citizens on both sides of the aisle are agreeing this could be problematic.

Small Cells with Same Amount of Energy as a Macro Tower

These “small cell” antenna will have essentially the same radiation as the large macro towers according to Mr. Lee Afflerbach, a consultant from Columbia Telecommunications Corporation, who explained this at a Sonoma Planning Commission meeting September 12, 2019. In this video at time 3:10:24, he states,   “To get around the capacity issue — it’s because so many people are [wirelessly] streaming video and other services like that, they [Verizon] have to have multiple sources for this. That’s why we have the smaller cells because each [small] cell is capable of almost putting out the same energy as one macro cell.”

Federal Action –

The FCC passed their 5G “FAST”  plan September 2018 which removes local authority on placement, permitting, fees and shot clocks for cell towers and defines a special class called “small cell” that can have increased densification. The due date for cities to comply with new ordinances was March 14, 2019, however, dozens of cities are involved with a lawsuit asking the  court for a stay of action for the FCC Declaratory Ruling and Third order Report. Legislation- HR 530 has also been introduced by Representative Anna Eshoo to reverse the FCC ruling.  Senator Feinstein has done the same in the Senate, with  S. 2012- Restoring Local Control Over Infrastructure Act of 2019.

Some cities believe this overreach by the FCC is not legal, as congress has not passed legislation with this language, although it is proposed in S. 1699 , which was previously S.3157

Federal Court Rules that 5G Small Cells Could Have Major Environmental Impact-Aug 2019

A recent telecom challenge to NEPA was recently won by the NRDC and the Native American tribes. A court ruling in August 2019 examined the requirement for a Federal review for the placement of 5G small cell towers under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The court overruled the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arguments in favor of Native American tribes. This decision has given some cities a possible means to at least temporarily deny 5G  “small cell” towers, and maintain local control in their placement, on the grounds there has been no NEPA review for 5G for both historic preservation as well as impacts on the human environment.

In an article by NRDC attorney, Sharon Buccino states, “Local governments can condition approval for new 5G cell construction upon compliance with state and federal requirements for environmental review. While a local government cannot add new requirements for environmental review, it can require proof that the necessary federal review has been done. Given the mounting evidence that the FCC’s radio frequency limits are inadequate, such federal review should include an evaluation of the adequacy of these limits.”  See also  NRDC and Tribes Win NEPA Ruling to Fight 5G Neighborhood Small Cell Towers


League of Cities Warns If The New S.1699 (2019)  Passes, FCC Ruling is Permanent and Changes the Telecommunications Act of 1996


Angelina Panettieri 202-626-3196  Original Article Here

“On June 29, 2018 Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Streamlining The Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance (STREAMLINE) Small Cell Deployment Act (S. 3157). The bill is focused, much like the recent FCC rulemaking efforts, on limiting the actions local governments can take on small cell wireless facility siting in an effort to make deployments cheaper, faster, and more consistent across jurisdictions.

Loss of Local Control

However, while the FCC’s statutory authority to take these actions is debatable and can be more easily challenged in court, congressional action to limit local authority would be permanently damaging. The bill would severely limit the ability of local governments in states without preemptive state small cell laws to govern wireless siting and would complicate implementation of new small cell laws in states that have passed them.

Preempting Local Authority

Despite urging from NLC and other local government advocates during the bill’s drafting phase, many preemptive provisions remain in the bill. Senator Thune said that he intends to hold a hearing on this bill by the end of the month. We need local leaders to send your Members of Congress a letter today urging opposition to this harmful legislation.

Could Affect NEPA

In addition to preempting local authority, the bill would make some major changes to current federal requirements for small cell siting by carving out a new category of “small personal wireless facilities” with new requirements, separate from existing wireless siting law:

It would limit local consideration of small personal wireless facilities (defined as “a personal wireless service facility in which each antenna is not more than 3 cubic feet in volume; and does not include a wireline backhaul facility”) to “objective and reasonable” “structural engineering standards based on generally applicable codes; safety requirements; or aesthetic or concealment requirements.”

  • Modifies the application shot clock to be 60 days for collocations, and 90 days for new sites. Cities would have ten days to notify applicants in writing if their application is incomplete. The bill also explicitly prohibits moratoria/tolling to lengthen these shot clocks.
  • Special shot clock carveouts for small cities, defined as fewer than 50,000 residents: 
  • 90 days for collocations if the provider has filed 50 or fewer applications in a 30-day period, or 120 days if the provider has filed more than 50 applications in 30 days. 
  • 120 days for new sites if the provider has filed 50 or fewer applications in a 30-day period, or 150 days if the provider has filed more than 50 applications in 30 days.
  • Allows local governments to request a one-time 30-day waiver from the FCC.
  • Includes a deemed granted provision for applications not acted upon by the local government in the stated period.
  • Limits “fees,” which the bill defines as “a fee to consider an application for the placement, construction, or modification of a small personal wireless facility, or to use a right-of-way or a facility in a right-of-way owned or managed by the State or local government for the placement, construction, or modification of a small personal wireless facility.” This would include not only application fees but also recurring rents for usage of public property.
  • Fees must be “competitively neutral, technology neutral, and nondiscriminatory; publicly disclosed; and based on actual and direct costs.” This would eliminate market-based rents for small cell facility installations.
  • Finally, the bill orders a GAO study on broadband deployment on tribal land.
  • The bill does not provide for the grandfathering of any extant agreements between cities and providers or tower companies, and it would appear to preclude agreements such as those recently struck by the City of San Jose, Calif. with AT&T and Verizon lauded by Commissioner Rosenworcel as an example other local governments could use. 

Cities should contact their Members of Congress, particularly those who sit on the Senate Commerce Committee, and urge opposition to the bill. “


National League of Cities Opposes FCC Ruling to Streamline Small Cells

Small cell NLC Screen Shot 2019-12-25 at 7.42.24 AM


From National League of Cities- “Municipal Action Guide Small Cell Wireless Technology in Cities”

Downsides to Fast Tracking Cell Tower Placement: Moratorium Needed

With this proposed legislation, industry promises to solve all the internet problems with wireless instead of wired connections to keep us seamlessly and continually connected to our devices, creating so-called “Smart Cities”.  What are the downsides?  Loss of local governmental oversight, control and income; loss of transparency, consolidation of the telecommunications industry, massive unsolvable privacy and security issues, mounting E Waste dilemma, increased energy consumption, technology addiction, over-dependence on technology; not to mention the obvious and looming direct health and environmental impacts of this expanding blanket of wireless radiation which leaves some people homeless and jobless due to severe electrosensitivity symptoms.

Eshoo HR 530 and the Question of 5G Safety

Federal bill HR 530 was introduced January 14, 2019 in the House of Representatives by California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, to invalidate the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) September 26, 2018 ruling to accelerate the deployment of 5G small cells throughout cities. Federal bill HR 530   is titled- To provide that certain actions by the Federal Communications Commission shall have no force or effect.   It simply states,“PRESERVATION OF RIGHTS OF STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: Actions by the Federal Communications Commission in ‘‘Accelerating Wireless and Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment’’ (83 Fed.Reg. 5186783) and the Federal Communications Commission’s Declaratory Ruling in ‘‘Third Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling’’ (FCC 18-111) shall have no force or effect.” There are now 49 co-sponsors of the bill. 

Feinstein SB 2012:  Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure

On June 27, 2019 Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced SB 2012, ‘‘Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act of 2019’’, a senate companion bill to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s HR530, which would similarly repeal FCC rules that limit state and local government control over telecom infrastructure. The bill is cosponsored by Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Ben Cardin (Md.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.). The bill is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, American Public Power Association, Communications Workers of America, National Association of Counties, League of California Cities and American Public Works Association. Feinstein press release here,  Restoring Local Control Over Public Infrastructure Act of 2019’’

Fiberoptic to Premises and Open Access Fiberoptic are the Answer

The Industry fails to acknowledge that improved cell phone connections could be addressed by feeding a fiber cable to every existing cell tower. Our sophisticated system of copper landlines are safer and more effective for all residents in emergencies, more secure from hacking and have better voice quality.  AT&T was slated to expand fiberoptic but now is pushing to remove copper landlines and force the market into wireless services (VOIP)  which are loosely regulated by the FCC.  See MDSafeTech  Broadband Expansion News. Changes in the FCC are also a concern with regards to health and environmental protections. Corporate Takeover of FCC

FCC: Another Captured Government Agency

It is important to become educated on this issue and understand local, regional and federal laws that have passed as well as new legislation being proposed. The FCC is industry run with a revolving door of corporate telecommunications leaders changing positions. See Norm Altser, Harvard Center for Ethics research paper, Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is Dominated by the Industries  it Presumably Regulates” .

State Actions-

Although SB649 in California was vetoed by the governor, 21 other states have passed legislation in 2018 to alter or remove local control for placement and rental charges for cell towers on public utility poles and in rights of way (see below). The telecommunications industry argues they need to lower the cost of installations and move more quickly to serve the publics demand for more connection with 5G and Internet of Things. Others say we should be skeptical about the outcome of constraining public rights. Handcuffing Cities .

California SB649 (Hueso 2017)  Wireless Telecommunications Facilities Was Vetoed by Governor Brown. SB649 Legislative Bill

 SB649 (2017) proposed to streamline permits for small cell antenna throughout neighborhoods (at least every block)  and rural areas by removing local government control for rapid deployment of antenna placement other than for historical sites and fire stations (due to concern for health effects). These would be for 4G telecommunications initially and with 5G application later as the technology is developed and rolled out. As in the Telecommunication Act of 1996, there would no exemptions, no ability to discuss public or individual health or environmental considerations in the placement of cell antenna. SB649 was vetoed by Governor Brown because of concerns about the loss of local authority, however. These are the 13 states have passed laws similar to SB649 –

Arizona (R-17), Colorado (HB17-1193), Connecticut (SB536), Florida (SB596), Indiana (SB213), Iowa (SB 431), Kansas (HB2131),  Minnesota (HF739), Missouri (HB 656), North Carolina (HB310), Ohio (SB331-Overturned by Judge on technicality), Texas (SB1004- Lawsuit from Austin filed), Virginia (HB 2196). Only one state is still working through  an antenna bill – Illinois(SB1451).  For updates on these bill you can visit the Environmental Health Trust Page-Small Cell Antenna State Bills-EHTrust

New State Legislation

Massachusetts has Introduced Seven Major and Several Smaller Bills Regarding Electromagnetic Fields. 2019

The bills relate to use of electronic devices by children, smart meter legislation wireless technologies in schools and establishing a committee to look at effects of 5G on health and the environment.  A list of the bills can be found here.


See Also


Cities Testing 5G

There are 11 cities in the nation now that are testing 5G small cell systems with frequencies in the 27 GHz range.  Sacramento will be the first to market 5G technology.


Local City Ordinances

Local City Ordinances have been passed to attempt to retain as much control as possible in the placement of cell towers both large and “small cell”.  Local opposition to cell towers is occurring in California in Palo Alto, Hillsborough, Piedmont, Monterey and Nevada City. Visit  Local Ordinances to view information on this issue. Los Altos  has the strongest ordinance to date an incorporated elements of Mill Valley City ordinance on small cells. To see a list of strong City ordinances go to  Cell Towers and City Ordinances

Hillsborough,  California: Attorney Patrick Shannon discussing the proposal to place 16 cell towers in residential and rural area at a Hillsborough City Council meeting Dec 7, 2017.


See Also:


New Federal Small Cell Legislation Introduced


There is now a Federal push to have similar bills remove all “barriers” to deployment of small antenna throughout cities and rural areas for the sake of 5G deployment and to support the Internet of Things.  No independent, all stakeholder commission has been convened to critically examine the many risks of this massive new untested technology with simultaneous exposure to many layers of microwave frequencies. There has been secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding 5G likely due to proprietary concerns. Secrecy surrounding 5G testing

“Carriers are pushing to remove states and the FCC to constrain public rights” Handcuffing Cities to Help Telecom Giants

The City of Piedmont joins the National League of Cities to oppose S3157. August 6, 2018.

SB 1625 – United States 5G leadership Act (2019)

SB 1625 Wicker (R-MS) United States 5G leadership Act (2019) . Co-sponsrs include Cotton (R-AR), Warner (D-VA), Markey(D-MA), Sullivan (R-AK), Blumentahl (D-CT), Manchin(D-WV), Collins (R-ME), Moran (R-KS), Gillibrand (D-NY), Duckworth (D-IL), Jones(D-AL).  The bill states the goal is to promote the deployment of commercial fifth-generation mobile networks and the sharing of information with communications providers in the United States regarding security risks to the networks of those providers, and for other purposes.

The bill will take 1) “steps to ensure the secure deployment and availability of 5G networks, with a particular focus on the threat posed by equipment and services produced or provided by covered companies; but also 2) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Chairman of the Commission shall prioritize the use of Federal funds to enhance representation of the United States at international forums that set standards for 5G networks and for future generations of wireless communications networks, including—

(1) the International Telecommunication Union (commonly known as “ITU”);

(2) the International Organization for Standardization (commonly known as “ISO”); and

(3) the voluntary standards organizations that develop protocols for wireless devices and other equipment, such as the 3GPP and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.



Pro 5G Bills Pending in US Congress Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee 2019

SB 1968: Wicker (R-MS), Schatz (D-HI), Moran (R-KS) -SPECTRUM NOW Act Supplementing the Pipeline for Efficient Control of The Resources for Users Making New Opportunities for Wireless Act. The bill will fund a study to reallocate Federal Spectrum to non-Federal uses. Text –

SB 2018: Collins (R-ME) and Jones (D-AL)-  American Broadband Buildout Act of 2019. Funds state level broadband programs for last mile broadband infrastructure and public awareness campaigns to highlight the value and benefit of broadband to increase the adoption of broadband internet service. Some portion of the funds also supports digital literacy programs in underserved areas. Text-

SB 1822:Wicker(R-MS), Capito (R-WV), Rosen (D-NV)-Broadband DATA Act Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act-.                                                   Text-

SR 259: Johnson (R-WI) – A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that United States leadership in 5G wireless technology is a national priority.                                         Text –


S 3157- (Now S 1699)  The Streamline Small Cell Deployment Act of 2018

S.3157 — The Streamline Small Cell Deployment Act of 2018. 06/29/2018.  Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). S 3157 or the Streamlining The Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance Small Cell Deployment Act aims to speed the approval of so-called small cells that are essential to deploying 5G, by giving local governments no more than 90 days to act on applications to install the small cells. If not approved or denied then the “deemed granted”clause is in effect and the cell tower is automatically approved. Many states including California (AB 57)  have this “deemed granted” clause that rushes cities though the process.  S.3157 has twice been read, referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and  Transportation and has recently been introduced to congress.  The bill aims to speed deployment of small cell antennas throughout cities and neighborhoods on utility poles about every 750 feet.    S 3157 Text    or

Scientists For Wired Technology

See comparison and summary of changes to the Telecommunications Act – S 3157 at

News S 3157

S 19-The Mobile Act Now Signed by Trump

S. 19 -The Mobile Act Now- (Thune 2017)-Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act.  Aims to make more short millimeter wave wireless frequencies available for use in 5G systems.  PASSED congress and signed by Trump March 23, 2018. 


S 88- The Digital Act

S. 88 The Digital Act-Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act -S88(Fischer 2017) Purports to help address the increase of digitally connected products (the Internet of Things or IoT) by creating a working group to analyze best practices to promote IoT moving forward. The steering committee would be composed of stakeholders outside the federal government. The goals include:1) identifying federal laws, regulations and policies that inhibit IoT development; 2) examine how federal agencies can benefit from, use, and prepare for the IoT


S 174-Consolidated Reporting Act

S 174-Consolidated Reporting Act – (Heller 2017). The Act would mandate that the FCC condense eight separate reports on competition in the communications marketplace  into just one report every two years. The FCC must 1)  include a list of geographic areas that are not served by any provider of advanced telecommunications capability; and (2) consider market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and small businesses in accordance with national policy favoring diversity of media voices, competition, technological advancement, and promotion of the public interest, convenience, and necessity.”


S 1682 Airwaves Act

S 1682 Airwaves Act (Cory 2017) According to Congress.Gov. “This bill requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to complete auctions during each of the next three calendar years that will grant new broadcast licenses for specified frequency spectrum bands. The FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration are directed to identify frequencies in specified spectrum bands that may be utilized for: (1) non-federal unlicensed use; and (2) commercial licensed use. The FCC must allocate 10% of proceeds from each of the spectrum band auctions specified in the bill to expand wireless infrastructure in rural areas that are underserved or unserved. The FCC shall conduct a study on how unlicensed frequency spectrum bands can be utilized for: (1) the provision of healthcare in rural areas, (2) distance learning, and (3) facilitating innovations in agriculture.”


S 1988- The Speed Act

S 1988- The Speed Act: Streamlining Permitting to Enable Efficient Deployment of Broadband Infrastructure. (Wicker and Cortez-Masto 2017) This bill would streamline the permitting process for small cell tower installations previously subjected to and environmental reviews. This removes the requirement for review under the  National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).


S.Res. 521. (2017) A Senate resolution expressing the sense of the Senate about a strategy to deploy fifth generation mobile networks (5G networks) and next-generation wireless and wired technologies to promote economic development and digital innovation throughout the United States.


Res. 521. (2017) A House resolution Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives about a strategy to deploy fifth generation mobile networks (5G networks) and next-generation wireless and wired technologies to promote economic development and digital innovation throughout the United States.


The “Model” Streamlining Bill for Small Cell

Here is a document from the Utilities Technical Council –Utilities Small Cell Bills Update– which states the goals of small cell regulations to “streamline” deployment of antenna.

Utilities Small Cell Bills Update, U.S.


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