ATT’s Roll-Out Of 5G Network In Ohio Runs Afoul Of Local Governments

AT&T will roll-out its new 5G network in Ohio thanks to a new law passed by the lame-duck legislature.

The law favors the telecommunications giant at the expense of municipalities and residents, but it could have been a lot worse. So says the executive director of the Ohio Municipal League.

“The original language was changed quite a bit,” Kent Scarrett said Jan. 23. “It was a hurry-up bill that was wrote up in November.”

Senate Bill 331 was introduced in the lame duck session as a way to circumvent the normal vetting and committee process, Scarrett said. It was backed by AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, he said.

According to its website, ATT is excited about the possibilities 5G will provide. It expects 5G to deliver speeds 10-100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connections. Customers will see speeds measured in gigabits per second, not megabits.

For reference, at one gigabit per second, a TV show can be downloaded in less than 3 seconds. Customers will also see much lower latency with 5G. Latency, for example, is how long it takes after you press play on a video app for the video to start streaming on your device.

“We expect 5G latency in the range of 1 to 5 milliseconds.” the company stated.

“New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before,” said John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President, AT&T Technology and Operations. “These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality.

“5G will reach its full potential because we will build it on a software-centric architecture that can adapt quickly to new demands and give customers more control of their network services.”

As originally written, the bill was extremely onerous on the ability of communities to control of the use of right-of-ways, he said. There was no regulation for any sort of property the companies desired to put infrastructure on.

Pressure from member communities on legislators returned some measure of local control. The law won’t stop the roll-out, but the four main providers will face some restrictions when it comes to rolling out the network.

“There are still a lot problems with the access provided and granted,” Scarrett said. “I believe this is not the end of the situation.

Some communities may continue to help to find how much authority should be given to the four carriers.

“I don’t think it’s dead,” Scarrett said.” I think there are still some legal issues that need to be defined and specify how this new statue will be applied.”

Initially, the bill would have allowed the four carriers to install infrastructure on building owned by a municipality, but the oppostion was able to get that changed, Scarrett said. That got changed to identifying which facilities can be attached to this infrastructure.

Other changes included pole size, the narrowing of who this new process would be granted and some other jurisdictional issues with the PUCO, Scarrett said.

“The first incarnation of this bill gave PUCO full authority,” Scarrett said. “While this issue and any challenges locally would have to be addressed in Columbus with the PUCO.

“So that was a problem.”

The OML was able to get the fee structure changed to where it’s $250 per unit of infrastructure instead of $250 for one application covering hundreds of sites.

So while the organization was able to get most of the local control back as well as many of the members’ concerns addressed, it’s not perfect, Scarrett said. Some members are still very upset t this new authority given top the wireless providers, he said.

“I think the conversation will continue on how the 5G will roll out with AT&T,” Scarrett said.

There are restrictions on the size of the infrastructure, containing the size of what is being added. The communities will still be able to control where the installation of the infrastructure will occur.

“It’s not perfect by any means, but there were areas we were able to preserve local control,” Scarrett said.

According to Cleveland.com, some communities may challenge the constitutionality of the law as it goes directly against Home Rule. As it stands communities will have 90 days to respond to applications to install infrastructure.

As for how did the legislature originally support the bill, Scarrett said the common theme was this was about AT&T and rolling out the 5G network. The driving force behind the argument was there were economic development issues tied to the wireless infrastructure.

“In the interest of continuing economic development growth and job growth and more opportunities by bringing this new technology to Ohio, that was kind of the bedrock for support and their expeditied process,” Scarrett said.

According to his understanding, Ohio is the first state where the 5G network is being rolled out. Leadership in Ohio wanted to be supportive of the rollout.

“They did not want to stand in the way of progress,” Scarrett said.

James Pruitt may be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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