This session the Legislature passed HB 2175 , which is an important first step in improving Washington’s wireless telecommunications competitiveness. The bill was signed by the Governor on March 28.
HB 2175 as originally proposed was much different from the version that was amended and passed by the House . The version that passed the House was further amended by the Senate, which the House ultimately accepted. It is this version that awaits the Governor’s signature. While the final version does not address all of the issues that are obstacles to deploying greater and more comprehensive wireless coverage around the state, the bill does include provisions that will reduce the regulatory and fee burden on wireless service providers in terms of both time and cost.
Currently a wireless service provider must apply for and obtain a permit from each municipality for each individual microcell facility attachment. Since wireless service providers must attach many microcells to provide comprehensive wireless coverage within a defined geographic area, the time and cost of filing separate applications for each small cell facility has become a serious regulatory obstacle to improve service for the public.
HB 2175 encourages local governments to allow consolidated applications and permitting for “small cell networks” (instead of filing separate applications for each individual small cell facility). This type of batch approach will significantly decrease the cost to wireless providers of increasing wireless coverage and capacity in the state. Cities have said they will work with providers to develop a batch process for permits.
HB 2175 will also limit the authority of cities and towns to charges wireless service providers for the use of a right-of-way when installing certain replacement structures. These costs are often passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
Currently a municipality can charge a wireless service provider a site-specific fee for replacement structures if the replacement is necessary for the installation or attachment of wireless facilities and the overall height of the replacement structure and the wireless facility is more than 60 feet. HB 2175 will require that the replacement structure be higher than the replaced structure in order for a municipality to charge a fee.
HB 2175 is an important first step in making it easier for wireless service providers to respond to growing consumer demand for increased wireless coverage around the state. Reducing permit times and limiting fees charged by local governments are policy changes that will serve the public interest by encouraging more private investment in wireless technology and in wireless service networks in our state.