Supremes To Weigh In On Cell Tower Citing Issue

In a decision that could help ease the way for telecom operators to site their towers and boost broadband service, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a case (T-Mobile South v. Roswell, Ga.) involving how a city has to justify its denial of a tower-siting permit, a case which has split federal circuits, one of the things that can get the Supreme Court's attention.

T-Mobile had challenged an Eleventh Circuit ruling—overturning a district court—that held that the city of Roswell, which had denied a tower placement, only had to notify the operator in writing of the denial and provide access to the administrative record of the decision, but did not have to explain how the decision was made.

But various other federal circuits have read the law as requiring the city to provide a decision separate from the administrative record and at least some explanation of the reason for the denial. That way, if there is a challenge in court, there will be something to judge whether the evidence supports that reasoning.

The Supremes have now agreed to try and resolve that split.

Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of PCIA-The Wireless Infrastructure Association (T-Mobile is a member), was pleased the court was going to weigh in. He said the split had "created ongoing and undue delay and expense in the roll-out and upgrade of wireless broadband facilities." He said his members were ready to build out to meet skyrocketeing demands. "[B]ut too often we are faced with local requirements contrary to federal law that frustrate our ability to get critical wireless technologies deployed."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.