by Steve Blum
AT&T and the City of Salinas hedged their bets and signed a master license agreement
for attaching small cell sites to city-owned poles that complies with current FCC
guidelines, but snaps back to market-based fees if those rules are changed, or overruled
by a federal court.
Last year, the FCC declared that municipal assets installed along roads or otherwise in the
public right of way, like street light poles or traffic aren’t really city (or county) property,
but instead are part of the right of way itself. In California, that would mean that mobile
broadband companies could hang wireless antennas and other equipment on street lights
at will, simply by filing for an encroachment permit. The FCC said any fees have to based
on cost, not market prices, and it decided that $270 per year is what a city’s costs should be.
It has since backed away from some of the restrictions it wants to impose, as it defends its
ruling against lawsuits filed by dozens of cities.
Under the terms of the deal, if the FCC’s preemption of local street light pole ownership
survives the federal appellate court challenge underway in San Francisco, then AT&T will
pay the City of Salinas a “monitoring fee” of $270 per pole per year to install “small wireless
facilities”. If it’s overturned, then a license fee will kick in, raising the yearly total AT&T has
to pay Salinas for each pole to $750 for the first year, with a 2.5% annual increase in the
license fee portion after that.
$750 per year falls in the middle of the average range for city pole rental fees in California,
although it’s less than typical rates in the San Francisco Bay Area, which tend to be in the
$1,500 per year ballpark. Unless the ballpark is in San Francisco proper – where $4,000 is
AT&T also agreed to follow particular construction standards for small cell installation on
city-owned poles. It will…
- Follow the City of Salinas’ small cell design standards, which limit antenna enclosures
to twice the width of and no more than 20% higher than an existing pole, require equip-
ment to be located underground or mounted on poles, and set standards, including anti-
graffiti measures, for screening everything.
- Cooperate with the City on pre-approval of standard small cell designs that can then be
deployed quickly and widely.
- Not install small cell facilities on traffic lights, or any pole “supporting signs or devices
used to control or direct…traffic”.
- Abide by the City of Salinas’ Dig Once policy, which could require AT&T to use existing
conduit or fiber routes in some circumstances, and allows notices to go out to other
companies that might be interested in participating in projects that involve excavating