Cellular Chiefs Seek Curbs on Local Boards

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Cellular Chiefs Seek Curbs on Local Boards

The cellular industry wants the FCC to cut obstacles to antenna construction

By Neil Munro, Staff Writer

The cellular industry has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to ease local regulations that have slowed the deployment of antenna towers.

Industry officials argue that the government is obligated to help them because they have paid billions of dollars for their cellular phone licenses.

"After receiving billions in wireless auction revenues, it is incumbent upon the federal government to exercise its pre-emptive authority to assure that the provision of wireless service to consumers is not hamstrung by local politics," according to a statement by Thomas Wheeler, president of the Washington-based Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.

Also, if local authorities block the deployment of extensive cellular phone networks, the industry may be unable to pay the government for its licenses, said an industry official.

But local authorities are not trying to stop the antenna deployment, said Kevin McCarty, a lobbyist for the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors. Local authorities must go slowly, partly because each company will likely sue local officials and zoning boards if the company thinks that its industry rivals have won a better antenna site, he said.

The industry's Jan. 3 request to the FCC is part of a long-running campaign by industry officials to win federal backing for curbs on local zoning boards, which can slow or derail construction of high radio towers. The towers are needed by cellular phone companies to relay phone conversations, but local opponents label them as eyesores and health hazards.

In its request, the CTIA asked the FCC to restrain cities and localities that try to exact unfair taxation and services from cellular phone companies, impose moratoria on antenna construction requests or condone public fears about suspected health hazards from antennas.

Industry officials say public fears about antennas' radio-frequency emissions are groundless and point to a recent study by the National Research Council, which showed no health danger from the emissions.

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