Edgar County has joined a growing list of government entities and other organizations opposing Senate Bill 1451.
The proposed law making its way through the Illinois legislature gives utilities the right to place Small Cell Facilities within local public right of ways without a permitting or review process. This could be as simple as attaching a device to an existing utility pole or perhaps siting another pole in the right of way, but it could also open the door for more serious structures.
A major concern is the proposed law gives small cell equipment priority for placement over other equipment such as antennas, radios and other emergency communication devices for enhancing public safety. Such a situation poses a real problem for the development of a FirstNet system intended to provide emergency responders with vital information, including real-time images, when seconds count.
Proponents claim the law is needed to promote the development of the next generation of 5G wireless networks.
While we endorse efforts to improve wireless networks, especially in rural areas suffering the consequences of being on the wrong side of the digital divide with slower Internet capability, we have serious reservations about a law giving private sector businesses authority over what is publicly held space and in some instances publicly owned equipment.
It is a bad law and bad policy and approximately 35 Edgar County landowners are already fighting to protect their land from another law that granted utilities the right to ram projects through without adequate public review and oversight.
There may be a good reason for locating these Small Cell Facilities in the public right of way, but denying local jurisdictions the ability to control where this equipment goes is a mistake. Local entities like the Edgar County Highway Department are often working on site plans for projects that are five years or more away from construction. A permitting process will help all parties avoid the expense of dealing with equipment placed in the way of future changes.
Other groups opposing the bill are the Illinois Association of County Engineers, the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders, the Illinois Association of County Board Members, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association.
The bill has already passed the Illinois House but has not been called in the Senate. We encourage readers to contact either Senator Chapin Rose, 217-607-1853, www.senchapinrose.com or Senator Dale Righter, 217-235-6033, www.dalerighter.com and ask them to safeguard the taxpayers’ interests over a give-away to business. Requiring locally issued permits is not too much to ask.