Walk in any restaurant or coffee house in Georgia today and what will you see at virtually every table? Rock out at Lakewood Amphitheater and what dots the crowd of concert-goers, held high overhead throughout the show? What was the most conspicuous aspect of the crowd shot boasting 100,000 attendees in St. Peter’s Square in March 2013, bearing witness to history in the election of Pope Francis, relative to the same shot in April a mere 8 years earlier at the election of Pope Bendict XVI? Mobile devices.
As Georgia consumers ask for more informational freedom to take their data mobile, the infrastructure to keep up is in high demand. Cell towers are popping up around the State. The potential for a free market boon is there that allows consumers to experience lower prices brought by free market competition between carriers and more reliable and available access to strong cell tower signals. In the case of property owners in strategic locations, there’s a profit opportunity to lease their own land for a profit to companies looking to build new towers. So what’s been holding it back? Unnecessary government intrusion that slows down the up-time for new tower builds and government regulation that drives up the cost of building infrastructure and raises the cost of mobile service for consumers. All of this may be about to change with the help of Americans For Prosperity activists around Georgia.
The Mobile BILD Act (House Bill 176) tackles these exact obstacles that stand in the way of inexpensive consumer access to mobile technology by encouraging more free market competition. The bill passed swiftly through the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee on January 23 and is on the fast-track for passage in 2014. (UPDATE: It has been placed on the General Calendar for a House vote Wednesday, January 29th; however, due to winter storm cancellations, this will be delayed). It does 3 basic things: limits fees and compliance costs imposed by local governments on the wireless industry, limits the bureaucratic red tape that lengthens the application review time for a cell tower project and streamlines the review process.
The fee limitations include limits to costly rental or lease fees that companies often incur when placing wireless facilities on public property. Too often, local governments charge higher than market rates when leasing public lands and mobile service providers are forced to eat the cost or pass it on to consumers. This drives up the cost of cell service for everyone. Local governments also have a tendency to foot drag through regulatory hurdles that draw out the clock. HB 176 adds a new State Shot Clock for new sites that matches the existing Federal Shot Clock and speeds up the process.
The safeguards are still there for evaluation of all available sites, clean up from existing sites, FAA air space safety protocols and proper placement of cell towers. But the process of building out to meet the demands of Georgia’s 21st century telecommunications needs will be vastly expanded by the passage of free market legislation like the Mobile BILD Act.