FLINT TWP. — The Genesee County Road Commission (GCRC), in partnership with local governments, is pushing back against companies seeking to erect telecommunications towers in road right-of-ways.
Speaking at a recent township board meeting, John Daly, GCRC director, said the road commission has been working diligently with township supervisors, to protect road right-of-ways from the intrusion of cellphone towers. Research found no evidence that Direct Access Systems (DAS) have ever been allowed in Michigan, he said.
“We have not allowed private for-profit entities to come in and use the road right of way,” Daly said.
Road right-of-ways were created to provide a safe haven for automobiles to go to and to pro- vide for road drainage infrastructure, he said.
Now companies are trying to come into Genesee County to build telecommunications towers in right-of-ways “under the guise that they will provide better Internet coverage,” Daly said, adding that some of the towers are 120-feet tall.
He gave the example of one erected on Coldwater Road that seeped through the cracks via an incorrectly filed Metro Act application to the City of Flint.
The state’s Metro Act is a law enacted in 2002 to “stimulate the availability of affordable high-speed internet connections” by helping telecommunications providers cut through red tape to obtain permits without paying excessive fees or experiencing long delays.
According to Daly, the Metro Act does not apply to wireless technology; it only applies to fiber optics.
Metro Act applications have a 45-day time limit for response before the permit is automatically approved.
Somewhere along the line, someone dropped the ball and the vendor went in and built a tower right in the middle of an urban area, Daly said The tower is built on a ten-foot deep concrete pad.
“That is reason we have to work together to make sure the residents continue to be protected” and their rights are not being usurped by outside organizations that want to use the rights-of-way for profit purposes, he said.
Working with attorneys, Daly has sent a letter voicing objection to the Federal Communications Commission which is currently seeking comment on a request for a Declaratory Ruling on Wireless Infrastructure in Road Rights-of-Way. A favorable FCC ruling would accelerate wireless broadband deployment by removing barriers to Infrastructure investment.
Daly said he has shared his concerns with the Michigan Townships Association in order to get the word out across the state.
Township Supervisor Karyn Miller responded that the township amended its Telecommunications Ordinance last December to better regulate where “unsightly” towers and poles can be located.
Also, last July, the township board unanimously rejected a Metro Act application from Mobilities LLC of California to build seven cellphone tower poles on right of ways in the township.
Grounds for rejection included that at least half of the towers did not comply with height restrictions under the control of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The entire township is covered by FAA height restrictions.
Daly asked that a copy of all future applications be shared with the road commission in order to be consistent countywide in response to these applications.