HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 1621, which increases access to 5G technology by deploying small wireless facilities, which could be as small as a backpack and attached to an existing utility pole, according to Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver/Butler) and Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Beaver/Allegheny).
“This legislation provides for the uniform, efficient and predictable regulation of small wireless facilities to streamline and accelerate the deployment of the next generation of high-speed wireless broadband throughout Pennsylvania,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, who sponsored the companion legislation in the Senate. “This final product is the result of significant work among wireless providers, our municipalities and groups representing workers, who do much of the deployment work, to come to this agreed-to legislation.
“I want to thank Reps. Marshall and Matzie for their leadership and for working with me on this important legislation that encourages wireless providers to deploy the most modern infrastructure throughout Pennsylvania while maintaining local government authority over their rights-of-way. I also want to thank my colleagues Sens. Lisa Boscola, Kristin Phillips-Hill and John Kane for all of their work to help usher this legislation through the Senate and to the governor.”
This legislation sets fees municipalities can charge for applications and permits, as well as guidelines for applications. It sets timeframes for reviewing applications, deployment of small wireless facilities and removing small wireless facilities and associated equipment if they are not going to be used anymore.
“While I know we still have work to do, I am truly hopeful this legislation will improve connectivity across the Commonwealth,” said Marshall, Republican chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. “I greatly appreciate the hard work of Sens. Browne, Phillips-Hill, and Kane – along with their staff – to help Chairman Matzie and I create a law that we all can be proud of.”
This bill also adds protections beyond the FCC order for local governments including an indemnity clause, damage repair provisions, limits on the number of applications that can be filed at one time and provisions for underground and historic districts.
Additionally, it sets requirements for contractors and subcontractors, and safety requirements for workers deploying these small wireless facilities.
“If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that access to fast, reliable broadband is a necessity in practically every aspect of life,” said Matzie, Democratic chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. “The technology is out there, but we needed a seamless plan to harness it. Our legislation provides that plan by laying the groundwork for municipalities to obtain this technology while also protecting the workers who install it.
“With the governor signing our bill into law, we can now put that plan into action, bringing us one step closer to state-of-the-art connectivity for all Pennsylvanians – regardless of ZIP code,” he concluded.
Municipalities will have the option to deny a permit if it creates a hazard for motorists or pedestrians, or it violates provisions within the Americans with Disabilities Act. Local governments can also create guidelines for the small wireless facilities if it does not prohibit installation.