Assembly Bill 537 (AB.537)

California AB.537

Communications: Wireless Telecommunications and Broadband Facilities.


AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY MARCH 11, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill 537 (AB.537)

Introduced by Assembly Member Quirk

February 10, 2021

An act relating to local permitting. to amend Section 65964.1 of the Government Code, relating to communications.

Annotations Look Like This:

Wire-CA: Comment

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 537, as amended, Quirk. Local permitting: broadband projects. 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 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. Under existing law, eligible facilities requests, defined to include any request for modification of an existing wireless tower or base station that involves collocation of new transmission equipment, removal of transmission equipment, or replacement of transmission equipment, are exempt from these requirements.

This bill would remove the exemption for eligible facilities requests defined above. The bill 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 takes the first procedural step that the city or county requires as part of its applicable regulatory review process. The bill would require that where a traffic control plan or other permit related to safety is required by the construction, the applicant shall obtain the permit, which the city or county shall issue without delay.

The bill would require that a city or county shall not prohibit or unreasonably discriminate in favor of, or against, any particular 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, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.

Existing law establishes the California Advanced Services Fund in the State Treasury with the goal of approving funding for infrastructure projects that will provide broadband access to California households.

Existing law expressly authorizes a county service area, as defined, to acquire, construct, improve, maintain, and operate broadband internet access services.

Existing law, the Permit Streamlining Act, governs the approval process that a city or county is required to follow when approving, among other things, a permit for construction for a development project for a wireless telecommunications facility.

This bill would declare the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would accelerate the completion of broadband projects, so that high-speed internet projects can be quickly constructed to benefit local communities, and would provide related findings and declarations.

BILL TEXT

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(a) The public’s increased reliance on broadband infrastructure 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 broadband deployment. 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) Every Each local jurisdiction in California has their its own permitting process and timeline. Examples of local jurisdictions include cities, counties, cities and counties, state agencies, 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 permitting of broadband projects by local jurisdictions determines how long it will take The length of time it takes for local jurisdictions to process permits for broadband projects directly impacts the length of time it takes before each a project has the ability to can provide high-speed internet service to local communities.

(e) Some local jurisdictions take 60 to 90 days to approve permits for broadband projects but other 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)Even though the federal government mandates that certain broadband project permits be approved within certain timeframes, many local jurisdictions use methods to work around those requirements to delay and deny high-speed internet projects that could be benefiting local residents.

(h)Expediting the removal of permitting barriers at the local level is the fastest and most cost-effective way to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access for Californians.

(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.

SEC. 2. It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would accelerate the completion of broadband projects, so that high-speed internet projects can be quickly constructed to benefit local communities.

SEC. 2. Section 65964.1 of the Government Code is amended to read:
65964.1.

(a) A collocation or siting application for a wireless telecommunications facility, as defined in Section 65850.6, shall be deemed approved approved, all necessary permits shall be deemed issued, and the applicant may begin construction 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 decisions. 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 decisions. 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.

   (3)

      (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 (A), the city or county may seek judicial review of the operation of this section on the application.

   (4) Where a traffic control plan or other permit related to safety is required by the construction, the applicant shall obtain the permit, which the city or county shall issue without delay.

(b)This section does not apply to eligible facilities requests.

(b) 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.

(c) 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.

(d) As used in this section, the following terms have the following meanings: (1) section, “Applicable FCC decisions” means In re Petition for Declaratory Ruling, 24 FCC Rcd. 13994 (2009) and In the Matter of Acceleration of Broadband Deployment by Improving Wireless Facilities Siting Policies, Report and Order, 29 FCC Rcd. 12865 (2014). 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.

(2)“Eligible facilities request” has the same meaning as in Section 1455 of Title 47 of the United States Code.

(e) 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.

(f) A city or county shall not prohibit or unreasonably discriminate in favor of, or against, any particular technology.

(f)(g) 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.

(h) 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 takes the first procedural step that the city or county requires as part of its applicable regulatory review process.

SEC. 3. If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.