Both state and federal law place some limitations on the City’s authority to regulate wireless communications facilities. Denials are possible only in very narrow circumstances and can be issued only on a case-by-case basis.
Collectively, these federal and state laws prohibit cities from:
- Denying a carrier the ability to provide service either through explicit prohibitions (example: banning all new wireless facilities) or through actions that effectively prohibit service (example: banning one specific facility necessary to complete a communication network).
- Unreasonably discriminating against functionally equivalent service providers. This requires cities to treat competitors in similar situations roughly the same. Cities may take into account legitimate differences such as the location, appearance of the equipment and cumulative impact of multiple facilities in the same location.
- Denying wireless applications based on health concerns, such as those previously expressed about radio frequency emissions.
- Stalling or failing to make a decision. The Telecommunications Act requires cities to act within a “reasonable” timeframe and the FCC has interpreted this to impose a short time frame, often referred to as a shot clock. The shot clock can be a short as 60 days and includes the appeal process. Failure to act on some applications may result in automatic approvals either under state or federal law.