We’ve been very critical of highly questionable tactics on Crown Castle’s part. As a quick reminder we’ve covered numerous troubling aspects of Crown Castle’s cell tower deployment in Palos Verdes:
- Misleading photo simulations (here) and “not to scale” drawings (here) that show equipment smaller than actuality, and are missing important components entirely
- Highly questionable technical claims regarding existing coverage and an alleged “significant gap” (here)
- False legal claims regarding our cities’ rights to regulate these cell towers (here)
Plus various other sundry topics, just keep scrolling down the blog for more.
It turns out that while Crown Castle (and its former entities NextG and Newpath Networks) may have written the book on questionable tactics, they certainly aren’t alone in practicing them.
Mobilitie, LLC is a cell tower outfit out of Newport Beach that makes Crown Castle look like pikers. They want to place thousands of cell towers in the right of way for Sprint and they are coming our way. We recently found out they are trying to establish themselves on the peninsula, all South Bay cities need to be on guard.
Sprint is dealing with cash-flow issues and has dramatically scaled back their planned network expenditures over the last few years. Despite what the guy on TV says, network quality has suffered. Sprint saw Mobilitie as their savior, able to roll out thousands of cheap, quick, dirty, and most important, rent-free cell towers in the public right of way. In addition, Sprint further plans to save money by connecting the cell towers using a master tower with microwave links rather than running fiber optic lines between them.
However, that plan would only work provided municipalities were willing to go along with it (or alternatively, thought they had no choice in the matter). Note also that these master “backhaul” towers are typically 120 feet tall in order to ensure they have line of site connection to the smaller towers that directly serve the consumer. Certainly not aesthetically pleasing or in-character with most neighborhoods.
Example of a proposed microwave backhaul tower. Note the ridiculous “utility pole” designation. This monster tower would communicate with smaller towers thus being cheaper than running fiber optic lines between sites. Also note the residential neighborhood character for this proposed example.
Mobilitie (not to be confused with the wireless carrier ATT Mobility) has multiple alter egos. They’ve been doing business as (dba) the “California Utility Pole Authority” in our state and numerous other monikers across the US. There’s an interesting post here on their recent incarnation as the “Pole & Fiber Network Authority” in Maine. These guys seem to have an “authority” obsession, despite the fact they have no authority. They are a private company with no connection whatsoever to any government agency.
We won’t comment on the motives behind the alter egos but will say that we are grateful that multiple knowledgeable individuals quickly spread the word as to who exactly these guys were and what was going on.
The Minnesota Smackdown
Mobilitie doesn’t like being criticized. So instead of us describing their tactics, we’ll let the Minnesota Department of Commerce do it. This department actually does have “authority”. It seems the good folks of Minnesota don’t appreciate slick Southern Californians telling them what they are “allowed” to do under Minnesota law.
You can find a full size PDF of the document here.
What a great letter, we only wish California’s regulatory agencies were as proactive in protecting our cities from the wireless industry’s misleading claims of entitlement. In that absence, we are extremely grateful that San Francisco took the lead in aggressively defending municipal rights in T-Mobile et al vs. San Francisco (2016). It’s a shame it also took the California Court of Appeals to set the record straight.
Our favorite quote from the Minnesota letter:
The Department requests that Mobilitie cease from asserting that PUC (Ed: Public Utility Commission) authority has exempted it from the regulatory requirements of local government units. If such communications continue, the Department will pursue whatever remedies it may have available under Minnesota law.
LOL, gotta love it.
What this means for Palos Verdes
As far as we know, Mobilitie has only made overtures on the peninsula so there’s likely no direct impact yet. That being said, the Minnesota smackdown letter mentions tactics reminiscent of Crown Castle’s claims in Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes.
We’ve documented how Crown Castle claimed federal law (known as section 6409) applied to their proposed cell towers, and that because of that, the City couldn’t deny them. As we made clear in our post (here), those claims were blatantly untrue. Crown Castle has also repeatedly claimed the California Public Utility Code Section 7901 limits municipal power to regulate their cell towers in the right of way. T-Mobile et al vs. San Francisco utterly obliterated that claim.
Residents and municipalities need to question California’s regulatory agencies why they aren’t taking a more proactive stance against these tactics. Until that happens, California cities need to aggressively challenge every claim made by any of these guys.
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