Assembly Bill No. 537, ENROLLED
An act to amend Section 65964.1 of the Government Code, relating to communications.
Approved by Governor October 4, 2021. Filed with Secretary of State October 4, 2021.
Legislative Counsel’s Digest
AB 537, Quirk. Communications: wireless telecommunications and broadband facilities.
Pursuant to existing federal law, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted decisions and rules establishing reasonable time periods within which a local government is required to act on a collocation or siting application for certain wireless communications facilities.
Existing law [AB-57] requires a collocation or siting application for a wireless telecommunications facility be deemed approved if a city or county fails to approve or disapprove the application within the time periods specified in applicable FCC decisions, all required public notices have been provided regarding the application, and the applicant has provided a notice to the city or county that the time period has lapsed.
This bill [AB.537] would require that the time periods described above be determined pursuant to specified FCC rules. The bill would require that the city, county, or city and county notify the applicant of the incompleteness of an application within the time periods established by applicable FCC rules. The bill would require that the time period for a city or county to approve or disapprove a collocation or siting application commence when the applicant makes the first required submission or takes the first required step, as specified.
The bill would prohibit, where a city or county requires a traffic control plan, or other submission or permit related to either obstruction or safety in the public right-of-way, the applicant from beginning construction before complying with that requirement, and the city or county would be prohibited from unreasonably withholding, conditioning, or delaying the approval of any submission related to this requirement.
The bill would require that a city or county not prohibit or unreasonably discriminate in favor of, or against, any particular wireless technology. By imposing new duties on cities and counties, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement. This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) The public’s increased reliance on high-speed internet access for remote work and school, telehealth, emergency response, and commerce due to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the need for legislation to accelerate the deployment of broadband infrastructure.
(b) Nearly 42 percent of California families said that unreliable internet access was a challenge for them during distance learning according to a recent poll by EdSource and FM3 Research.
(c) Each local jurisdiction in California has its own permitting process and timeline. Examples of local jurisdictions include cities, counties, cities and counties, and any other entity that may be required to issue a permit for a broadband project, including water districts, special districts, and municipal utilities.
(d) The length of time it takes for local jurisdictions to process permits for broadband projects directly impacts the length of time it takes before a project can provide high-speed internet service to local communities.
(e) Some local jurisdictions approve permits for broadband projects very quickly. Other jurisdictions take months or years to approve the same type of project.
(f) There are currently over 1,000 broadband permits pending with local jurisdictions in California that would improve internet connectivity for several million residents.
(g) Given the heightened importance of robust connectivity for access to opportunity in the 21st century global information economy, as well as for California families in a world of increasing work-from-home and learn-from-home expectations, it is in the public interest to encourage the rapid deployment of broadband projects.
Section 65964.1 of the Government Code is amended to read:
(a) A collocation or siting application for a wireless telecommunications facility, as defined in Section 65850.6, shall be deemed approved if all of the following occur:
- (1) The city or county fails to approve or disapprove the application within a reasonable period of time in accordance with the time periods and procedures established by applicable FCC rules. The reasonable period of time may be tolled to accommodate timely requests for information required to complete the application or may be extended by mutual agreement between the applicant and the local government, consistent with applicable FCC rules.
- (2) The applicant has provided all public notices regarding the application that the applicant is required to provide under applicable laws consistent with the public notice requirements for the application.
- (A) The applicant has provided notice to the city or county that the reasonable time period has lapsed and that the application is deemed approved pursuant to this section.
- (B) Within 30 days of the notice provided pursuant to subparagraph the city or county may seek judicial review of the operation of this section on the application.
(b) Where a city or county requires a traffic control plan, or other submission or permit related to either obstruction or safety in the public right-of-way, the applicant shall not begin construction before complying with this requirement. The city or county shall not unreasonably withhold, condition, or delay approval of any submission required by this subdivision.
(c) This section does not apply to eligible facilities requests for a modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of the tower or base station as described in Section 1455 of Title 47 of the United States Code and applicable FCC rules.
(d) The city, county, or city and county, shall notify the applicant of the incompleteness of an application within the time periods established by applicable FCC rules.
(e) The Legislature finds and declares that a wireless telecommunications facility has a significant economic impact in California and is not a municipal affair as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI of the California Constitution, but is a matter of statewide concern.
(f) As used in this section, “applicable FCC rules” means those regulations contained in Subpart U (commencing with Section 1.6001) of Part 1 of Subchapter A of Chapter I of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
(g) Except as provided in subdivision (a), nothing in this section limits or affects the authority of a city or county over decisions regarding the placement, construction, and modification of a wireless telecommunications facility.
(h) A city or county shall not prohibit or unreasonably discriminate in favor of, or against, any particular wireless technology.
(i) Due to the unique duties and infrastructure requirements for the swift and effective deployment of firefighters, this section does not apply to a collocation or siting application for a wireless telecommunications facility where the project is proposed for placement on fire department facilities.
(j) For purposes of this section, the time period for a city or county to approve or disapprove a collocation or siting application shall commence when the applicant makes the first required submission, or if the city or county requires a preapplication meeting, communication, or similar step before submission, when the applicant takes that first required step.
(k) Nothing in this section shall supersede, nullify, or otherwise alter the requirements to comply with safety standards, including, but not limited to, both of the following:
- (1) Article 2 (commencing with Section 4216) of Chapter 3.1 of Division 5 of Title 1.
- (2) The Public Utilities Commission’s General Order No. 128, Rules for Construction of Underground Electric Supply and Communication Systems, or successor rules adopted by the commission.
No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the program or level of service mandated by this act, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code.