Arlington to Allow Small Cell Facilities on County-owned Streetlight

Published on July 16, 2019

The Arlington County Board today voted to allow  wireless providers to attach small cell facilities necessary for 5G technology to  County-owned streetlight poles. The move will enable the deployment of technology seen as essential for the creation of  smart, connected communities.

"As 5G becomes a technological necessity, it is important that the County facilitate its development in Arlington," Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. "The Board's action today builds on the permission the County granted in 2017 for providers, with the permission of pole owners, to install the facilities on privately-owned poles across the County."

The Board voted unanimously to enact an amendment to Chapter 22 of the County Code, removing the prohibition on installing the facilities on County-owned structures in the public right-of-way, and to approve the Master License Agreement for small cell wireless installations. The amendment will be effective August 1, 2019. The Board also approved a Master License Agreement that wireless providers will be required to sign before they can apply for permits to install small cell facilities on County streetlight poles.

Wireless providers will be required to pay an annual fee for each County streetlight pole they use for small cell facilities and will be required to maintain the facilities.

In response to concerns raised by residents about possible health affects of small cell wireless installations, staff reported to the Board that the Center for Disease Control, the Federal Communications Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health have all said, in reports issued between June 2014 and January 2019, that that there is no science to link health problems to cell phone use. The authority to regulate radio frequency emissions rests with the FCC. The County's Master License Agreement with carriers requires licensees to ensure that their wireless installations "comply with all FCC regulations, including without limitation those regarding EM and RF emissions and exposure limitations." Carriers must test for emissions compliance within 60 days after installing new facilities or making modifications that alter site emissions, and whenever requested by the County.

About 5G

5G is the next generation of robust mobile broadband technology. The technology increases mobile download speeds — up to 10 times faster than today's technology. Its faster speed and improved reliability will help businesses, government operations and individuals. 

"Smart cities are employing the same technology to connect their disparate utility, infrastructure and public service grids, generating real-time aggregate data. This,in turn, can help cities manage their programs and services more effectively and gauge their impact for residents, businesses and visitors immediately. The city of the future is an interconnected one, where devices communicate with one another in a constant stream of data that provides real-time information to the public and to the municipality," the National League of Cities said in its small cell wireless Municipal Action Guide.

The technology requires the attachment of small wireless facilities — basically, small antennas — on utility poles or streetlights, mostly in high-density commercial corridors with high usage. It adds bandwidth and brings the signal closer to users. To learn more, visit the County website.

Read the staff report for this item. Scroll to Item No. 63 (A and B), on the agenda for the July 16, 2019 Recessed County Board Meeting.