The antennas – about the size of a mini-fridge – can go almost anywhere under Fla. law, but most will be placed on phone poles in areas without underground wires.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The next generation of wireless cellphone technology, known as 5G, or fifth-generation, will allow for much faster wireless internet speeds that could unlock new economic potential, but the technology also means hundreds of new small cellular network antennas going up across Florida sometimes right in people’s front yards.
And because of a new state law, local governments have almost no say in where or how those new antennas can be placed.
Telecommunication companies are scouting the best sites to install the new cell antennas, which are a little larger than a mini refrigerator and would be mounted on top of a utility pole.
Because the new 5G technology uses a much higher radio frequency, the 5G signals travel shorter distances than traditional cellphone technology. The signals are easily blocked by buildings and trees, meaning many more antennas are required to provide coverage to an area.
Many of the new sites will be in the front yards of single-family homes.
Gordon Tyrell, of Pensacola, had no idea Verizon was planning to put a new pole with an antenna directly in front of his house.
“It’s shocking to us,” Tyrell said. “I wish they would’ve let us know ahead of time or something.”
Under a new Florida law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis this year, cities can’t require telecommunication companies to notify residents or require much of anything from the companies. The Florida League of Cities opposed the legislation, but it easily passed the Florida Legislature.
“That was one of the things the (telecommunications) industry asked for,” said Amber Hughes, a senior legislative advocate with the Florida League of Cities. “They didn’t want to do door hangers. They didn’t want to have to notify any residents.”
The League of Cities of Fort Walton Beach, Naples and Port Orange filed a constitutional challenge to the law, according to a report from the News Service of Florida.
By requiring municipalities to commit substantial taxpayer and public funds to accommodate wireless providers collocation of facilities on municipally owned utility poles, while prohibiting municipalities from charging appropriate fees to wireless providers for that privilege, the small cell statute effectively requires that municipalities use taxpayer and public funds and property to subsidize private companies, the lawsuit said.
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