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Rick Scott approves 5G wireless bill over League of Cities’ opposition

A 5G wireless technology bill that was vigorously opposed by the Florida League of Cities was nonetheless signed into law Friday by Gov. Rick Scott. 

The bill (HB 687), sponsored by St. Cloud Republican Mike La Rosa in the House, pre-empts to the state the regulation of telecommunications companies putting “small wireless facilities in rights of way.”

The League asked Scott to veto the measure, saying it will “deprive cities of their authority to regulate the use of public rights of way.” Such equipment, including antennas and related equipment, can be as big as a kitchen refrigerator.

“The G in 5G means it’s a generation of wireless technology,” PCMag.com explained in May. “While most generations have technically been defined by their data transmission speeds, each has also been marked by a break in encoding methods, or ‘air interfaces,’ which make it incompatible with the previous generation.”

The bill “may leave local governments minimal ability to control the aesthetics of their public rights of way, but it effectively hands significant control to the wireless industry,” League Executive Director Mike Sittig had said in a press release.

“Florida cities embrace the deployment of 5G (wireless) technology in their communities (but) this bill offers deep discounts to multi-billion dollar telecommunications companies at the taxpayers’ expense,” he added.

By setting this “arbitrary and artificially low cap on the fee,” Sittig wrote, “cities could lose $50 million to $100 million a year in revenues they would otherwise receive if free-market rates were allowed to apply.”

Sittig also noted in the release that “the telecommunications industry has acknowledged that the technology to enable 5G communications will not be ready to be deployed until 2022, and asked, ‘Why rush and pass legislation that creates and undercuts city police powers? Rather, Florida should protect the free market.’ ”

Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), applauded the bill’s signing.

“This new law … will make faster wireless communications, connected cars and smart cities a reality for Floridians sooner rather than later,” he said in a statement.

“Investing in Small Cell Deployment technology gives the Sunshine State the ability to attract innovative, technologically advanced companies, (which) will not only bring Florida into the technological future, it will create an economic environment where businesses can grow, innovate and thrive.”

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