ATLANTA – Regulatory issues took center stage during day 2 of the DAS in Action event in Atlanta this week as a pair of sessions touched on challenges in dealing with legislation impacting the DAS and small cell market.
One challenge cited by a number of panel members included the vagueness of current legislation when it comes to small cell deployments. That vagueness comes from the fact that most legislatures are not sure how to classify small cells or in many cases have ever heard of the solutions.
Zachary Champ, government affairs counsel for industry trade association PCIA, noted that some municipalities have taken a very narrow view of current siting regulations that has pressured DAS vendors to go to extra lengths in order to gain access to public venues and utilities. These lengths have included trying to convince some municipalities that DAS systems are a public utility and thus should have the same access to right-of-ways.
Champ did note that the recently instituted FirstNet program designed to sheppard the deployment of a nationwide public safety network could prove beneficial for the wireless industry. Champ explained that the program will place emphasis on wireless networks having access to both in-building and outside locations in order to provide coverage requirements for first responders.
Another topic touched on was the need for education when it comes to dealing with local municipalities. Panel members said that local governments tend to have a negative knee-jerk reaction to the deployment of cellular antennas, though most know very little about the actual process. Jonathan Campbell, director of government affairs at PCIA, explained that there are still questions as to where DAS fits in to local zoning, adding that the technology is seen differently by many municipalities.
“This is something we are trying to bring to the [Federal Communications Commission’s] attention,” Campbell said.
Georgia State Senator Judson Hill noted that the wireless industry needed to get ahead of the curve when it comes to education, warning that they needed to anticipate opponents would be engaged with legislators in getting their views on wireless network deployments.
“Local municipalities in general don’t understand DAS … how to regulate it,” Sen. Hill explained. “There is a vacuum in education that needs to be filled.”
Sen. Hill added that one way the industry could explain the benefits of additional wireless facilities would be to tie access to the everyday lives of those in local governments. Whether that is to tap into their addiction to applications or their need to be able to communicate with their family, how additional coverage and capacity can help with job creation or healthcare initiatives, the goal is to educate people on how a new DAS site or small cell deployment can help the community.
Panel members also reminded those in attendance that once they begin working with local governments on deployment, to make sure to remain engaged with those people in order to help expedite future deployment plans.
Bored? Why not follow me on Twitter?