Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act (Act 50) which took effect on August 29, 2021. Act 50 addresses the deployment of small wireless facilities, including new utility poles to support the facilities, in the public rights-of-way. The term “small wireless facility” is defined in Act 50 (generally each antenna can’t be more than three cubic feet in volume) and such facilities are permitted by right anywhere in a municipality with the exception of areas where the municipality requires all cable and utility facilities to be located underground. However, the municipality must permit an applicant to seek a waiver from the underground requirement for the installation of a new utility pole to support a facility.
The installation of a small wireless facility on an existing utility pole must not extend more than five feet above the pole. If the facility can’t be attached to an existing utility pole, then a new or replacement pole is permitted with a maximum permitted height of fifty feet above ground level, including the facility. Municipalities are permitted to adopt objective design standards for small wireless facilities provided the standards are technically feasible, don’t have the effect of prohibiting the technology of a wireless provider and don’t unreasonably discriminate among wireless providers.
The rates that municipalities are permitted to charge are consistent with the 2018 FCC Order, which I discussed in earlier blog posts here and here. A municipality is permitted to charge an annual right-of-way fee of $270 per facility. A higher fee can be charged if the requirements for a higher fee set forth in Act 50 are met. The application fees that a municipality charges can’t exceed $500 for an application that proposes up to five small cell facilities and an additional $100 for each proposed facility beyond five.
Act 50 also provides that municipalities may adopt ordinances and shall amend existing ordinances as necessary to comply with Act 50. However, if an ordinance was not adopted or amended within sixty days of August 29, 2021, then any applications must be handled in compliance with the provisions of Act 50.
Please feel free to contact any member of the McNees Wallace & Nurick Land Use Group for assistance with any land use or development issues and/or if you have any questions regarding this post.