February 2016

You Asked. We Answered.

At the Inquiry Answer Service, we answer, on average, more than 300 questions for our subscribers each month. We consult a variety of sources to create a custom research packet — which may include APA publications, sample ordinances and plans, articles and literature from partner organizations, and the most current information available online — for each question.

Each month, we choose one question to feature here, so you can see what your peers around the country are asking and how we answered. When your organization subscribes to PAS, you and your colleagues will also have access to previous editions.

You Asked.

How are communities regulating small-cell telecommunications facilities?

I am working on code amendments for the new mini/micro cells (cylinders about 2 feet long and 14 inches in diameter) and am wondering how jurisdictions are regulating them on private property.

We Answered.

Mini- or micro-cell wireless technology refers to smaller, low-power wireless telecommunications antennas typically installed on existing structures or poles. Proponents of this type of infrastructure praise it for being able to fill gaps in coverage and boost network capacity while eliminating the need for large monopoles that are more strictly regulated at the local level. The small size of these facilities also means they are more easily installed on existing buildings or structures and may be less aesthetically objectionable than larger cell towers. However, the shorter ranges of these antennae mean that more of them are required.

The examples below show how some communities are explicitly addressing small-cell telecommunications facilities in their codes. Most of these communities give preferential treatment to mini- and micro-cell facilities over traditional "macro" antennae.

Generally speaking, the trend in wireless facilities away from large freestanding towers to camouflaged/stealth antenna placement on existing buildings and structures is compatible with small-cell technologies. Consequently, many communities may deem new standards unnecessary, choosing instead to simply prioritize collocated and building-mounted antennas (without defining mini- or micro-cells as distinct facility types).

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