Localities Would Be Fair Game for Telecom Companies, if SB-556, AB-537 and SB-378 Pass

Adapted from an article by Anne Thomas, May 23, 2021 | Original Santa Barbara Independent article here.

Three Horrible Telecom-Friendly State Bills Would Forever Change the Landscape of California Communities for the Worse


A trifecta of three Wireless Telecom California State Bills stand to negatively change the landscape of our communities forever if they pass in Sacramento. Sponsored by the Big Wireless, SB-556, AB-537 and SB-378 will shift the decision-making power over where so-called “small” Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (sWTFs) will be located in our communities from the local planning departments to the Telecom industry itself.

You’ve heard that right. Should these bills pass, the wireless telecom industry will then have full control over where those small cell towers are located: which street light pole, which traffic light pole. They will all be fair game for them, no matter how close to your residence they are located. How would you like to have a sWTF installed within feet of your bedroom window? This will happen to many if these three bills pass.

All three bills are Telecom-friendly bills that aim to rush the deployment of wireless infrastructure, bypassing the local government authority to decide what is best for each community. Many of the provisions included in the bills have cost-reduction and profit motives for the wireless industry, and strip away local control from the decision-making process over new projects. These bills are touted as remedies to closing the so-called “Digital Divide” yet they do nothing to require that be done. These three bills do not solve these problems, but will create new problems that communities will have to endure for decades to come.

Who should be in charge of where small wireless facilities should be installed in communities? Who should be in charge of how the fiber network should be installed in communities (underground, aerial, etc.)? Who should be in control of the permitting process? Who should be in charge of reviewing compatibility with communities’ efforts to protect the well-being of residents, aesthetics (which include the quiet enjoyment of our streets and homes), property values, the environment, fire hazards, and more?

We believe this power should remain at the local level by the local planning departments, and the local community instead of the Wireless industry itself.

The City of Santa Barbara is currently in the process of drafting a new Telecom ordinance that will include protective clauses for all city residents. These three state bills would simply render these protections moot.

Approving these three bills will basically give free rein to the telecom industry to have control over the planning, and the execution of all projects involved in the installation of small wireless facilities. Local communities will no longer have any say in that process, and will suffer the consequences for decades to come.

Please contact your elected officials and request that they join the League of California Cities in opposing SB-556. Also encourage your City and the League to oppose AB-537 and SB-378, as well.

Over 50 California Communities have already done so. Our local elected officials need to do the same and protect the residents’ interests, per their Oath to Office. Their silence would mean they support this egregious power grab by the Wireless Telecom industry.

Send an email to the Santa Barbara City Council and County of Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors asking them to express their opposition to these bills. They will not get to vote on them, but they can have their opposition stated in Sacramento.

At the state level, our Assemblymember and Senator will get to vote on these bills. Please ask them to vote against all three bills that will demolish local control over the placement and permitting process for sWTFs:

  • Assemblymember Steve Bennett at Tel: (805) 564-1649, or by Fax: (805) 564-1651
  • Senator Monique Limon at Phone: (805) 965-0862, or Fax: (805) 965-0701

For more information on the impact of the deployment of the wireless network in our communities, go to the Safe Technology for Santa Barbara County website at SafeTechSBC.org and Wire California.