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:
- Submit Online Comments to the FCC: Provide feedback at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.
- Call the FCC: Call the Federal Communications Commission at (888) CALL-FCC, Option #4, and ask to speak to an agent.
- Contact Your Federal Elected Officials: Reach out to Senator Feinstein, Senator Padilla, and Congresswoman Brownley and let them know your thoughts.
Timeline of Federal Preemption
Federal Telecommunications Act
Federal Communications Commission Report and Order
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:
- 2017: Letter of Opposition for SB 649 (California; would have removed local control of wireless facilities in the public right-of-way)
- 2017: Veto Request Letter for SB 649 (Successful; SB 649 was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown)
- 2018: Response from Congresswoman Brownley re: New FCC Regulations
- 2019: Letter of Support for H.R. 530 (Federal; proposed to rescind FCC Regulations)
- 2019: Letter of Support for S. 2012 (Federal; proposed to rescind FCC Regulations)
- 2021: Letter of Opposition for SB 556 (California; proposed to enshrine FCC rules into state law)
- 2021: Veto Request Letter for SB 556 (Successful, SB 556 was vetoed by Governor Newsom)
- 2022: Letter to FCC requesting that they complete its rulemaking process to update or revalidate federal RF emissions standards)
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: