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Rauner signs small cell bill opposed by Elmhurst

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill April 12 opposed by the city of Elmhurst that would streamline regulation of small wireless cell facilities for 5G wireless technology in Illinois but limit local control.

Senate Bill 1451, the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, allows wireless providers to place telecommunications equipment with an antenna up to 6 cubic feet in size and related equipment up to 28 cubic feet in size on existing or new utility poles.

“This legislation sends a strong, competitive message that Illinois is open for business. We want to make Illinois a leader in wireless technology," Rauner said in a news release from his press office. "We are working to grow jobs and our economy and set our community up for future success."

The Elmhurst City Council unanimously approved a resolution Dec. 4, 2017, urging Rauner to veto the bill, which would limit the ability of cities with fewer than 1 million people to regulate the placement of wireless antennas in the public right of way.

Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley said after the April 16 Elmhurst City Council meeting that the bill reduces local control, and in general, he is opposed to any reductions to local control.

"In this case, this can have an impact on our revenue, and it also can have an impact on where cell towers go up. It takes control and the decision-making away from the city," Morley said.

He added that in his role on the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference's legislative committee, he also opposed it, and committee members have had "numerous" conversations with the governor, expressing their opposition to the bill. The committee also has provided revised language providing for more local control.

Morley said there is a trailer bill that potentially allows for cities to put in fee structures that could return some control back to the cities.

"If the city of Elmhurst passes an ordinance that puts in a fee structure before June 1 and the trailer bill goes through, we could retain some of that local control. It is our plan to move forward and pass an ordinance, but it might be moot if the trailer bill doesn't go through," Morley said.

Currently, Elmhurst negotiates with cellphone carriers on where to place cellphone receivers in the city and how much Elmhurst can bill them, Morley said after the Dec. 4 meeting.

Small cells are lower-profile wireless signal alternatives to traditional cell towers that can be attached to existing structures, the governor's office release stated. Small cell technology will help provide Illinoisans with faster download speeds and improved call quality and support telemedicine, connected cars, distance learning and smart cities, creating a more connected network across the state, according to the release.

Accenture, a management consulting company, has forecast that 5G and smart cities investments will create nearly 100,000 jobs and bring in nearly $9 billion in investment to Illinois over the next seven years, the release stated.

“The Small Cell Wireless Bill ensures that consumers in Illinois stay on the forefront of wireless technology,” state Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, said in the release. “Illinoisans will now have greater access to 5G technology, allowing for more data to be transferred faster than ever before.”

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