Efforts to regulate how and where wireless companies may install “small cell” equipment for the coming 5G network in Maryland, including in residential areas, have died in the state’s General Assembly.
Legislative proposals — one backed by the wireless industry to preempt most local zoning laws and an opposing plan pushed by local governments — have been referred to “interim study.” That means they won’t go forward this legislative session, which ends April 8, according to Natasha Mehu, legislative director for the Maryland Association of Counties. The issue could get more attention in a hearing this summer or fall, she said.
“It’s not an easy lift to get through all these details in the course of a session,” Mehu said.
Legislation backed by the wireless industry also died in the General Assembly last year, after its sponsor pulled it, saying it was too controversial.
Wireless companies say they need states to streamline zoning regulations governing where they may install equipment needed to boost Internet speeds via the 5G network, while local governments say they need to retain control over where potentially ugly antenna-topped poles are installed on public land, particularly close to homes. Some residents have said they’re concerned about the potential long-term health impacts.
Virginia passed an industry-backed proposal last year. A new federal policy also recently limited how much time local governments may take to review applications for small cell equipment and how much they may charge to do so.
Local governments in Maryland also are expected to pursue their own local regulations, Mehu said.