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Debating SB 649: Local government regulation versus cell phone towers

A worker climbs on a cellular communication tower on March 6, 2014 in Oakland, California.
A worker climbs on a cellular communication tower on March 6, 2014 in Oakland, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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More cell towers in exchange for better service and lower rates? That’s the idea behind a new bill in the state legislature, SB 649.

Opponents say the legislation is a financial boon for telecommunication companies and would strip local governments of their power over cell tower installation. Currently, companies that want to install a cell tower lease the land from the city, which has control over the placement and aesthetic of the tower. Depending on what the local government charges, the lease for just one antenna site can cost up to $3,000. SB 649 would turn the lease into an annual administrative fee of $250. It would also allow telecommunications companies to put up towers without public input - meaning a tower could show up in front of your house and the city wouldn’t be able to stop it.

Proponents say this would be benefit California’s technological advancement and reduce phone bills by eliminating overhead for telecommunication companies. They say local governments are actually reticent to lose lease money, even if it would mean lower phone bills for constituents.  

Should telecommunications companies have more freedom to build towers? What would be the benefits and drawbacks for constituents?


Kish Rajan, chief evangelist for CALinnovates, a technology advocacy coalition that includes telecommunication companies  

Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor representing District 2, which includes the cities of Winters and Davis, the UC Davis campus and farmland in the southwestern portion of Yolo County