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Small cells are small radio antenna equipment installed on streetlights, rooftops, and other locations as a primary way to deliver 5G (Fifth Generation) mobile technology. Other equipment, such as an electric meter, may also be placed on the pole or a on a nearby pedestal. They are always connected to a fiber network.
Small cell facilities will help wireless service providers in meeting the continuously increasing demand for wireless services. The increased use of smart phones, tablets, health monitors and other wireless devices in every-day life relies on a robust wireless network to maintain fast, reliable speeds. A small cell network will add capacity and improve in-building coverage in San Mateo neighborhoods. Also, small cell networks will improve voice quality, reliability and data speeds for San Mateo residents, businesses, first responders and visitors using the wireless networks.
Public Right-of-Way (ROW) refers to City owned streets or easement. The public ROW general consists of the roadway, sidewalks and a strip of land behind the sidewalk (which varies by neighborhood).
No. Under FCC Regulations (47 U.S.C § 332(c)(7)(B)), the City shall not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting wireless communication facilities. In other words, the City may not establish rules, regulations, or processes that would prevent providers from installing their facilities anywhere within the City.
The RF emissions and limits are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).The FCC provides information about the safety of RF emissions from wireless telecommunications facilities on its website.
The City cannot establish our own RF emission limits per the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C § 332(c)(7)(B)(iv)), “No state or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emission.”
For more information, please refer to the FCC's Safety FAQ and the Cancer.org Safety Information page. Additional details can be found at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Cancer Institute, and the World Health Organization.
Questions regarding potential RF hazards from FCC-regulated transmitters can be directed to the Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau:
455 12th Street SWWashington DC, 20554Phone: 1-888-225-5322 (1-888-CALL-FCC)Email: email@example.com
Yes. The Department of Public Works processes and issues both Wireless Communications (WC) permits and Encroachment (EP) Permits for the installation of wireless facilities in the public right-of-way. A wireless service provider must obtain both a WC permit and an EP permit prior to installation. The WC permit approves Small Cell the location and appearance based on our Design Standards and Municipal Code. The EP permit approves the construction activities based on our traffic control and construction standards.
Yes. The Department of Public Works reviews each Wireless Communications Permit application for small cell facilities to consider if the proposed design and location sufficiently meets our Design and Engineering Standards.
Only residents or property owners within 500-ft of an approved wireless permit may file an appeal within the 5-day appeal window. All decision notices posted on the City's notice page and the Small Cell newsletter email include the appeal process guide.
Please refer to the City’s “Wireless Communications Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way” Municipal Code Section 17.10.070(g) for more detail of the appeal process.
Small Cell facilities are subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process. However, installation of small cell facilities on utility poles, streetlight poles, or freestanding poles are categorically exempt from the CEQA review process pursuant to Sections 15301, 15302, and 15303 of the Guidelines for CEQA.
The City's permits are not required to follow the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process in their review.
Streetlight poles are owned and maintained by the City of San Mateo. Wireless service providers that obtain master license agreements with the City are allowed to attach their equipment to streetlight poles after obtaining the appropriate permits. In these cases, the City owns and maintains the streetlight pole while the wireless service provider owns and maintains the small cell equipment.
The majority of wooden poles are operated by the Northern California Joint Pole Association (NCJPA). Utility poles may have several owners on a joint pole, including electric, telephone, and cable providers. The City does not regulate who can or cannot attach to these poles.
All wiring serving the small cell antennas and electric meters are owned and maintained by the wireless service provider.
Due to General Order Number 95 clearance requirements and limitations on the volume of equipment that can be installed on a pole it is unlikely for multiple wireless services providers to install separate Small Cell facilities on the same pole.
Generally, the installation of the antennas and equipment on the pole and painting (if needed to match equipment to the pole) can be accomplished in a few days. Additional work may be required at ground level to connect power and fiber-optic cables (for network connection) to the pole-mounted equipment and antennas.
If a neighborhood does not already have a fiber network, then a separate permit is required for a new fiber network, and construction typically happens separately from the Small Cell installation.
Yes. Wireless carriers have proposed and deployed similar networks in cities throughout the Bay Area. Small Cell facilities have been installed in most San Mateo County agencies.
For information regarding moratoriums of small cell installations, please review the City Attorney’s memorandum to Public Works dated April 6, 2018 as presented to the Public Works Commission on April 11, 2018.
Local agencies cannot prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting small cells, per the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C § 332(c)(7)(B)(i)(II)). It is illegal for the City to prohibit small cell deployment in residential areas or any other zones as it would violate this federal code. The City must allow wireless service providers to use public right-of-way. The City design standard has indicated residential zones, schools and parks are least preferred, but they are not outright prohibited.
We are not aware of any cities with an outright prohibition on installations in residential zones. In fact, to do so would violate the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. If a small cell is proposed in a residential area, wireless service providers are required to demonstrate that no other more-preferred zoning classes are technically feasible.
No. The City only receives cost-recovery fees from small cell companies and no other financial incentives. By order of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the City is allowed to charge fees to cover costs for review and issuance of a telecom permit as well as charge a $270 annual fee per City-owned streetlight pole for annual inspection services.