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Georgia lawmaker wants to streamline cell tower approvals

7:29 PM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
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  • File of DeKalb County cell tower protestors
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ATLANTA - We seem to have a love-hate relationship with cell phone towers.

We protest when someone tries to put one in our neighborhood, but we also complain about poor connections to the gadget crazy wireless world many of us now crave.

A Cobb County state lawmaker wants to make it easier for cell towers to sprout, he claims for better public safety and more jobs.

"If companies come here and they don't see that they have the bandwidth and the coverage they need, then they're going to be looking someplace else," Rep. Don Parsons (R-Cobb County) told 11 Alive News.

Parsons' HB 176 would limit the power of Georgia's local governments to deal with cell tower requests.

Among other things, it would require that government to make a decision on a new application within 150 days or an improvement application within 90 days.

If they don't act one way or the other in that time, those applications would automatically be approved.

It would also no longer require a company to prove the technical need for the tower, such as a gap in coverage.

And it would allow certain improvements without approval, such as making a tower up to 10 feet taller or up to 20 feet wider.

Communication companies believe it would help streamline things.

"It's a very long process to begin with, 18 to 24 months today, and that's if everything goes right," AT&T spokesman Bob Corney told 11 Alive.

"This is really about just trying to take out that unnecessary component of it," he added.

Local governments complain it would tie their hands and muzzle public opposition.

"It will significantly limit the power of local government and the public at the negotiating table on new cell tower locations within their communities," said Todd Edwards of the Association of County Commissions of Georgia.

Edwards said the 150 day decision limit may sound reasonable at first, but it doesn't take into account a case where a communications company or several companies might file multiple applications at one time, which could overwhelm a local government.

Rep. Parsons argued that because so many governments lack expertise in the field they have to hire outside consultants to study the applications.

He claimed that can drag out the process since consultants are often paid by the hour.

Wednesday afternoon the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee unanimously approved Rep. Parson's bill.

It now heads to the State House for possible debate on whether Georgia should speed up the cell tower process.

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