MILTON, Ga. — The installation of small cell towers in Milton is inevitable, but the city is considering an ordinance that will require telecom companies to give the city a heads up when applying to construct or install new equipment. The 5G rollout regulations, aimed at streamlining the implementation and availability of the technology, were signed into law earlier this year and will take effect Oct. 1.
The law gives telecom companies extensive leeway to install new small cell towers in public right of way and severely limits what cities and counties can say about it. Though Milton’s hands will be tied because of the new law, the city hopes to could curb some issues related to the installation of towers.
The ordinance would require a telecom company to notify the city at least 30 days before applying for a small cell tower permit. It also states that companies would inform the city of how many towers it expects to deploy in a 24-month period and a timeframe for completion.
The proposal also calls for the city to charge the maximum allowable fee under the law for any new small cell towers or equipment.
While cities have limited control over the location of new towers, City Attorney Ken Jarrard said the state law permits Milton to set its rates and fees for small cell equipment up to a maximum amount under the law and, because of the city’s size, Milton can require telecom companies to meet with city staff before their first application to install new equipment.
“The bill still lets you see behind the veil,” Jarrard said. “It let’s you see the rollout and implementation for each company, and it is proprietary, so that information is not subject to the open records act.”
Milton is not the first North Fulton city to draft an ordinance addressing the state law.
Alpharetta adopted an ordinance last year in anticipation of the bill passing in the 2019 General Assembly. When the bill passed, the legislation virtually dismantled the city’s preemptive effort.
Johns Creek also passed an ordinance last December that was superseded by the state law. The ordinance enforced certain design standards, encouraged telecom companies to use the same poles for equipment to limit the number of new poles and required firms enter into a master right of way agreement with the city.
Though the new law makes Johns Creek’s ordinance unenforceable, the city has since updated the regulations that expedites the permit process and lowers the permit fees for companies who adhere to its previously approved regulations.
Milton could take its ordinance up for a vote and its next regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 9.