Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

FCC Preempts Local Public Safety Communications Ordinance. (Advocacy in Action)

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

FCC Preempts Local Public Safety Communications Ordinance. (Advocacy in Action)

Article excerpt

The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Wireless Bureau recently concluded that federal law preempted parts of an Anne Arundel County, Md., zoning ordinance that involved radio frequency interference. The county enacted the local ordinance after exhaustive tests showed that commercial towers were responsible for 61 "dead spots" in its public safety system, essentially blocking public safety communications.

"The FCC's action shows that public safety and homeland security needs of local governments are being outweighed by the commercial needs of private industry," said NLC's Information Technology Chair Vicki Barnett, councilwoman, Farmington Hills, Mich. "The bottom line is that at the street level these ongoing communication glitches have caused an untold number of close calls and at untold injuries nationwide."

The preempted law required that before receiving a county zoning certificate, wireless tower owners must demonstrate that the requested towers did not interfere with the county's public safety operations. If interference was shown, the county would then be allowed to revoke a zoning certificate.

Cingular Wireless challenged those parts of the local ordinance in April, and the county sought dismissal of the petition, saying the courts--not the FCC--had exclusive purview over zoning actions that local governments undertook that involved wireless facilities. The FCC disagreed, granting Cingular's petition for a declaratory ruling.

According to the FCC, the provisions of the ordinance that were challenged regulated radio frequency interference not traditional zoning functions, and were preempted by federal law. …

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