MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill that would set a state-wide standard for deploying 5G cellular infrastructure, including how much money cities can charge providers for access to existing utility structures, passed the Senate Thursday.
The Alabama League of Municipalities had opposed the bill over concerns that cities would lose the ability to oversee their right-of-way resources.
However, the group dropped its opposition after the Senate adopted amendments aiming to provide more local control for 5G infrastructure and ensure that any existing contracts with wireless companies would remain intact.
“We appreciate the Alabama Senate taking bold steps today to protect local authority as it pertains to public rights-of-way,” said League of Municipalities Deputy Director Greg Cochran.
“Maintaining this authority is essential to the protection of our citizens. The amendments brought forth today by Senator Sam Givhan preserve local agreements between cities and wireless providers ensuring the efficient deployment of utilities throughout our communities.”
5G, which stands for “fifth generation,” is the latest in wireless technology that allows high-speed internet access over cellular networks to ensure quality of service in high-capacity areas. Those networks require “small cell” receivers and antennas to take the signal transmitted from cell phone towers and disperse it locally. Providers want to place those cells, described as the size of two stacked rolls of paper towels, on utility and light poles and other public-owned property.
Senate Bill 172 from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, passed the Senate by a vote of 30-0. Orr has argued that 5G technology is a public good for the state and is needed to grow business in Alabama. He said that cities’ fees to providers were stalling that growth.
The bill now goes to the House.