FLINT TWP. — After consulting with its attorney, the township board has reconsidered its stand against waiving fees for collocation on shared telecommunications poles.
At its September 18 meeting, the board voted four to three in favor of allowing colocating companies not to pay the $75 a month fee. At a previous meeting in August, the board decided to take no action on a provider’s request to collocate without paying the fee.
Cable Attorney Tim Lundgren came to the Sept. 18 board meeting to better explain the colocation option and to answer questions.
Lundgren said a national effort is underway to essentially make a more robust wireless system to provide cellular and Internet service. Cellphone towers are plentiful but everyone has no doubt experienced places where service drops, he said,
New uses such as wifi in cars are placing greater demand for wireless services. One way to address that need is to place smaller antennas to fill in the gaps where there is heavy demand, he said.
Rather than build new towers, new telecommunications companies coming into an area are asking to colocate by mounting their antennas on existing poles. Insisting that those companies pay a fee could lead them to exercise their right to instead build a new tower – which ultimately could result in a proliferation of towers all over the place, Lundgren said. Also he warned that the township could be facing a lawsuit if they insist on companies paying a collocation fee.
The preferred path being taken by many communities statewide is to allow colocation rather than open the door to widespread placement of cellphone towers, he said.
Township Supervisor Karyn Miller and Trustees Tom Klee and Barb Vert were not convinced. They voted against waiving the fee. Klee and Miller had argued previously about the amount of money the township would be forfeiting.
“They are going to make a lot of money,” Miller said. “I have no doubt that whoever is going to benefit will make money.”
She and Klee were most vocal about the township not reaping any benefit.
Miller also raised the question of setting a precedent for other providers such as Comcast and At&T to also demand that their fees be waived. Lundgren assured her that those companies and their services fall under different regulations.
Klee, who teaches technology at Carman-Ainsworth High School, said he is in favor of technology but does not see why the township can’t charge some sort of fee to the colocators.
“I don’t want us to get hosed,” he said. He also expressed concerns about compensation to private property owners when pole installers cause damage to their property.
Lundgren said the township board does have some say in terms of where the poles are located and their appearance.
Trustee Frank Kasle, who voted in favor of allowing collocation without a fee, said that one benefit of having more antennas is that township residents should get better internet and cellular service.