Wireless Facilities in the Right-of-Way

Federal Oversight of Small Wireless Facilities

Since January 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has preempted local government control of small wireless facilities within the public right-of-way.  Combined with the 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act, which prohibits local governments from considering the potential health effects of radio frequency (RF) emissions, this means that cities across the country essentially have no control over wireless facilities (cities can still require insurance protection, traffic control during installation, and some aesthetic controls).

If you are concerned about these federal standards, here are some resources to engage federal lawmakers:

Timeline of Federal Preemption

Federal Telecommunications Act
  • Cities cannot make laws that prohibit wireless facilities.
  • Cities cannot regulate wireless facilities based on concerns about radio frequency (RF) emissions if the facilities meet federal regulations.
Federal Communications Commission Report and Order
(Effective 2019)

  • Cities must allow small wireless facilities within the public right-of-way.
  • Cities must create a streamlined permitting process for small wireless facilities in the public right-of-way.
  • Cities are limited on charging fees for small wireless facilities in the public right-of-way.

Background and History

Each successive generation of cellular data technologies (3G, 4G, 5G, etc.) requires a denser network of wireless telecommunications facilities (commonly known as cell sites) because the cell sites cannot serve as large an area as the prior generation of communications technology.  To enable 5G service, telecommunications companies are currently deploying 5G small wireless facilities in Moorpark, across the country, and across the world.  Some of these small wireless facilities are being installed on utility poles in residential zones, sparking concerns from residents in Moorpark and beyond.

Both before and after the FCC's Report and Order that became effective in 2019, the City has a lengthy history of legislative efforts opposition federal preemption of local control of wireless facilities.  Prior to the FCC action, the telecommunications industry attempted to pass a law in California in 2017 (SB 649) that would have also preempted local control and would have required cities to allow small wireless facilities in the public right-of-way.  Moorpark strongly opposed the bill, but the bill was passed by the state Legislature.  Moorpark then called on then-Governor Jerry Brown to veto the bill, and he did so.

After the FCC's Report and Order was published, the City backed federal legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 530) and the U.S. Senate (S. 2012) that would have repealed the FCC's report and Order.  However, both bills failed in 2019-20.

The City continues to engage its federal representatives on this topic and continues to lobby in Sacramento to push back against the continued and expanded preemption of local control on this issue.  However, the City also continues to comply with federal laws that are currently in place.

A history of the City's legislative actions on this topic is shown below:

Local Testing of Wireless Facilities in the Right-of-Way

Although the City does not have the legal authority to establish RF emissions standards for wireless facilities in the public right-of-way, the City now tests such facilities located in residential zones to ensure that they are operating within the limits established by the federal government.  Results of the first two tests (February 2023) are provided below: