Cleveland and telecom companies at odds over new equipment installation

CLE and telecom providers battle over new law

When AT & T and other telecom companies made gee-whiz improvements  to handle more calls, videos and data faster during the Republican National Convention here, Cleveland cheered the permanent upgrades.

But it's now jeering at a bid by telecom companies to get a measure through the lame-duck legislature that would end Cleveland's and other cities' power to regulate small cell equipment upgrades on municipal power poles, water towers and rights-of-way.

It would let them input it in, where and how they want.

Mayor Frank Jackson has written House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and Senate President Keith Faber, asking them to pull the plug on legislation that would wipe out cities' power to regulate rates, zoning and location of such installations.

"We are totally blindsided by it...Unrestricted access with no oversight...This type of legislation will set a very bad precedent as it relates to home rule,"  said Cleveland Utilities Director Robert Davis.

Mayor Jackson's letter claims, "it would prevent local municipalities from having a say in how their infrastructure is used...and create issues around safe usage and legal accountability."

"When you have people putting in electrical equipment that will expose people to harmful electricity...that a child touches, unaware of what it is, it raises serious concerns, " said Cleveland Public Power Commissioner Ivan Henderson.

The Mayor's letter specifically zeroes in on AT & T.

But providers AT & T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile all sent lawmakers a letter about their concerns.

They said, "Customer demand is creating a capacity crunch....creating a need to streamline Ohio's regulatory environment and procedures."

The Ohio Telecom Commission, an umbrella group for the industry, echoed that message in a statement, saying, "This will allow us to improve service in high-traffic areas and better serve our customers."

Cleveland is the lead city pushing back.

Henderson added, "They really sidestepped the traditional process and did not involve stakeholders...This is not just a Cleveland issue . It's a statewide issue."

The industry claims the approval process is needlessly time-consuming and lengthy.

The city argues it's better to do this right than do it fast.

And it claims it  has successfully negotiated with providers to install needed cables and devices for upgrades on its infrastructure and equipment.

As of yet, there is not a new bill or piece of legislation .

It may be attached as a rider to another measure expected to pass in this lame-duck session before the end of the year.


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