Two bills drastically alter local regulations over telecommunications

The General Assembly approved HB311 and HB345 (previously reported on), which impact cities’ ability to regulate wireless telecommunications antennas, utility users in public rights-of-way, and telecommunications attachments to municipally-owned utility poles. While much attention has been given the deadlines for wireless applications provided in these bills, more impactful changes include:

  • Further eliminates municipal authority to regulate numerous aspects use of City’s own streets and rights-of-way by utilities, including a prohibition on certain agreements, permits and franchises for many existing utilities and eliminates significant areas of public cost recovery.

  • Severe restrictions of regulations that seek to curb proliferation of new wireless towers, including prohibition of tower collocation requirements.

  • Significantly strips municipal authority to regulate negative visual impacts imposed on communities by unsightly cell towers and antennas, whether on private or public property;

  • Transfers power to set rental rates of public property to third parties; mandates use of public property (including municipal utility poles) upon request of telecommunication companies.

  • Bills waive or exempt telecommunications companies from rate and other State regulation requirements at their option.

With these bills, Missouri Legislators appear to have taken the unprecedented policy position that rapid and unfettered deployment of anything by any private utility outweighs property values, taxpayer cost recovery, and safety goals of local government control within its own local jurisdiction. Efforts to encourage a veto of these bills by the Governor have been taken up by the MML, but more opposition from cities and citizens alike are likely needed to overcome the strong industry interests that support these bills. A recent newspaper editorial about this may be viewed here.

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