In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a new rule that lets wireless locations expand—both in width and height—but such changes have had a snowball effect that is impacting everything from colocation facilities to property values. In Bellevue, Washington, the City Council is dragging their heels to abide by the FCC’s decision, claiming that such big changes to towers and antennas will drastically change the landscape and horizon of the city. However, Lori Riordan, the City Attorney, says that the city still has some control over just how many changes are around the corner.
On April 2015, the FCC’s Spectrum Act officially went under revision. Now, wireless providers that use antenna towers can grow in order to achieve modifications and/or bring on extra equipment necessary to continue providing service. These towers/antennas received an allotment of six extra feet in width and 20 feet in height with the new regulations. If the equipment is on a fixed “other” structure, such as a light pole, the height can go an extra 10 feet. Wireless companies can also increase their cabinetry by four, which is about the size of the average refrigerator.
No Denial of Applications
Bellevue and other cities cannot deny any applications for expansion, as long as they are eligible. Additionally, all permits have to be approved in 60 days. Riordan says, “It does have the effect of taking away some of the local control that we have had over the deployment and permitting process, and does really restrict our ability to require some mitigation of expansion and colocation facilities.” According to the Bellevue Development Services Department, there has been enough warning that a program to allow for such expansion would be put into place. All federal regulations will be followed, but with minimal upset.
Riordan says, “It’s very important that we actually comply with this order because, of course, if we don’t we’ll face this potential for permit applications being deemed actually approved.” There are plans in place to make pinpointing potentially new tower/antenna sites as fast and simple as possible. The City will maintain as much control over modifications as necessary while still abiding by the law.
Simultaneously, Bellevue along with many other cities has filed an appeal to the FCC. They claim that the FCC was too liberal in how rules were interpreted when creating the revision, resulting in less local control than is safe or reasonable. However, expansion of colocation providers, which are of course a necessary accoutrement to wireless companies, is something that is slated to happen anyway.
The colocation service data centers require an immense amount of space in order to maximize security, cooling and to accommodate a growing number of clients. Many tech companies in particular require dedicated servers in order to provide reasonable service to their clients—but managing such servers can be challenging. That is why they are placed in colocation service data centers where rack space is rented, security is prime and experts are always on hand to manage the servers for their clients.
Growing “Up” Too Fast
Plus, going with a local colocation service provider offers additional benefits. The clients are physically close to their servers, allowing them to check on security with ease. It also helps with connectivity when dedicated servers are physically close. Finally, there’s an element of customer service superiority with local colocation service providers. While it is technically possible to use an offshore provider, for many US companies that simply does not result in the type of service they would like.
Data centers will continue to grow no matter what the FCC decides, but such a fast growing spurt can cause trouble in places like Bellevue where space is already limited. Drastically changing a city’s landscape with the towers and antennas is another, but related, issue. It is unclear whether or not local governments will stand a chance at an appeal moving forward, but scrambling to retain local control is a savvy move that may ultimately benefit the local citizens.