CT Municipalities lose out on bigger say for ‘small cells’ on cell tower poles.
The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has exercised jurisdiction over municipalities in approving requests over whether cell tower mobile providers can install small transmitters on utility cell tower poles as a means to improve coverage in neighborhoods.
PURA had deliberated on the issue since last summer, when Greenwich officials filed a request with PURA to clarify whether it could have any say in a Verizon Wireless plan to install a “small-cell tower” transmitter on affluent Shore Road in Greenwich.
The move drew responses from Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T (NYSE: T) and the Wireless Infrastructure Association trade group; as well as the city of Danbury, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Connecticut Council of Small Towns and the Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel.
The vast majority of utility cell tower poles in Connecticut are jointly owned by Hartford-based Eversource Energy (NYSE: ES) and Norwalk-based Frontier Communications (Nasdaq: FTR), which allow use of the poles by cable companies. The newest entities jostling to get space on the poles are mobile providers with low-power radios that can receive and send signals less than a mile but which can improve network capacity as much as 16-fold — a key criterion for wireless providers as more people and businesses rely on mobile apps for communicating and controlling devices, and possibly opening up avenues for new competitors to enter the market.