SB 596/HB 687 is legislation being considered by the Florida Legislature that would hand telecommunications corporations wide-open access to municipal rights-of-way. Enactment of this bill would lead to Florida’s picturesque cityscapes becoming littered with unsightly equipment and towers that could soar up to 60 feet high.
While Florida’s communities embrace the latest technological innovations, this legislation crosses the line. It would allow telecommunications companies to override the authority of our local officials to decide what is best for the safety, well-being, and character of our communities.
It’s bad legislation, and we have joined forces to stop it.
- Florida is a hurricane-prone state, and recently local leaders made zoning decisions with public safety in mind. This legislation would allow the construction of new poles and equipment, even in these hurricane-prone areas, putting our residents and their property at risk.
- Municipal workers across Florida could be at risk working with unfamiliar new equipment attached to existing poles by telecom companies.
- Public-access land is used for legitimate public purposes, things like police or fire radio antennas. With the unfettered access envisioned in the legislation, telecommunications companies would be able to hijack this land – areas that should be reserved for public safety purposes.
- This legislation amounts to a corporate handout – it would take advantage of utility structures paid for with tax dollars and use them to benefit corporate profits.
- If existing structures aren’t available, utilities would be allowed to erect poles up to 60 feet high. But first, the local city would have to fund structural and engineering reports to assure code compliance – even if the telecom companies then decide not to build these unsightly towers after all.
- When the next generation of technology comes along and the telecom companies decide to abandon antennas or equipment, the cost burden would then fall on the city to clean up and remove the equipment.
- The open-access granted to the telecommunications companies in this legislation interferes with communities’ ability to maintain their unique local character, assets that attracted many residents to live there in the first place.
- The legislation is especially problematic for communities that have invested in burying their utility lines. Despite the local choice to keep utility lines underground, this legislation will allow unsightly poles where local decision-makers and citizens didn’t want them. Invasive 60’ towers and refrigerator-sized equipment would mar the landscape.
- Community members put their trust into the local officials they elect. But this legislation would strip decision-making from these officials, authority that is a key part of their duties looking out for the best interests of their residents.
- This legislation allows telecommunications companies to circumvent local permit processes and cut in line, jumping ahead of local residents and small business owners who don’t enjoy these unfair advantages.