LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Small cell antennas are ‘a boon for Delaware)

Small cell antennas are not a threat; they are a boon for Delaware. A recent [June 6] letter to the editor concerning new rules for siting wireless antennas, “Safety and financial effects of HB 189,” needs a response. It warns about the negative zoning and right-of-way (ROW) impacts of HB 189, the Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Act, but in reality, this bill does not reduce zoning controls and sets Delaware up for some very significant technological advantages. HB 189 is not a threat to revenue, property rights, or public safety; it is a good thing for Delaware.

First, a little background on the bill. It is about creating the small cell infrastructure to bring high-speed wireless data service to Delaware neighborhoods, schools, and business districts, and positioning Delaware for the next generation of services: fifth-generation or 5G.

Everyone very much wants this to happen. Customers increasingly rely on their smartphones, and 5G is going to be a groundbreaking upgrade in wireless connectivity (100 times faster than the status quo), offering huge economic, public safety, and lifestyle benefits, including Smart Cities technologies and self-driving cars. Nationwide, wireless providers will invest $275 billion in infrastructure to deploy 5G and, once available, the technology will create an estimated 3 million jobs and grow U.S. GDP by $500 billion.

Small cells are nothing like the giant cell towers that primarily support the current wireless network. This technology is usually about the size of a large shoebox and is typically mounted on existing structures like street lights or utility poles.

Many states, not just Delaware, are creating new, streamlined, uniform rules for siting small cells, realizing that forcing providers to go through the maze of permitting processes written for towers is total regulatory overkill, and directly inhibits access to cutting-edge wireless in their communities.

Similar to revised regulations in other states, HB 189 is carefully written to preserve local zoning controls and reasonable fees. Traditional communications providers have long had access to public ROW, and wireless companies will be subject to the same rules that have capably protected public spaces in the past. DelDOT’s authority to ensure the safety of travelers and pedestrians remains intact, and it will have the ability to enforce spacing and concealment standards. None of that is changed.

There are also provisions in the legislation that direct small cells be located on existing structures whenever possible. Small cells are relatively unobtrusive to begin with; people won’t notice a difference in the Delaware landscape because of the new regulations.

What Delawareans will notice is a huge increase in their technical capabilities, as small cells deploy 5G wireless. There are obviously going to be advantages for people interested in digital entertainment, but many of the changes are going to have a big impact on the way we work, energy consumption, transportation, and public safety. More than 80 percent of all 911 calls are now made from wireless devices. It is not an overstatement to say that the reliability and speed of 5G wireless will save lives – studies show that even a one-minute improvement in emergency response time results in an 8 percent reduction in mortality.

Delaware has nothing to fear from HB 189, and much to gain from current enhancements and from 5G wireless. This bill will help make sure Delaware is ready to be a part of the bright digital future 5G is going to create.

The Committee of 100 is a non-profit association of Delaware business leaders that work to promote responsible economic development. The Committee of 100 is celebrating its 50th year of service to Delaware’s quality of life.

Paul H. Morrill Jr.
Executive director, The Committee of 100
Wilmington

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