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Cell Tower Zoning: Overview and Current Issues

OnDemand Webinar (85 minutes)

This OnDemand Webinar will describe the major elements and issues under the 1996 Federal cell tower zoning statute, including the FCC's 2009 shot clock rule setting 90/150 day deadlines to act on zoning applications, the pending FCC Notice of Inquiry on cell tower zoning, the major federal zoning cases involving cellular towers and practice pointers on how municipalities can successfully handle cell tower zoning cases. You will gain a useful understanding regarding wireless communications technology for nontechnical staff, including overview discussions of cellular, PCS, DAS and WiMAX provided by wireless carriers. This OnDemand Webinar will also provide specific methods to deal with RF safety considerations. You will come away with knowledge of the major current issues and practical advice on how to handle and defend cellular tower zoning applications.

Learning Objectives

  • You will be able to identify the basics of wireless technology for municipalities and municipal attorneys.
  • You will be able to discuss practice pointers for municipalities, providers and their attorneys on complying with the Federal statute and FCC orders.
  • You will be able to review the FCC shot clock order and its practical implications for municipalities and providers.
  • You will be able to define the current federal law and issues on cellular tower zoning.


Jonathan L. Kramer, Esq., Kramer Telecom Law Firm, P.C.
John W. Pestle, Esq., Varnum LLP


Overview of Federal Law on Cell Tower

Zoning, Current Proposed Changes, 1996 Federal Law Changes

Current Federal Law and Issues on Cellular Tower Zoning; Which Statute Applies - 1996 Act or 2012 Act (Section 6409(a))?

1996 Act

• Substantial Evidence Standard of Review

• Aesthetics, Effects on Property Values and Other Allowable Factors

• Consideration of Alternate Sites and Ways of Serving the Area

• What Is a Gap in Coverage or Prohibition of Service?

• The Requirement for a Written Decision and a Written Record

• Exclusion of Health Concerns and RF Emissions From the Proceeding

• No Federal Cell Tower Backup Power Requirement

• Remedy of Injunction Allowing Tower to Be Built the Risk for Municipalities

FCC 2009 Shot Clock Order on Cell Tower Zoning

• 150 Days to Decide on Zoning Applications for New Towers; 90 Days for Additional Antennas on Existing Towers

• Impact of the Court Decision Upholding the Order

• Applicability to Incomplete Applications, Requests for Additional Information

• Applicability of Time Limits to Internal, Administrative Appeals

2012 Act, Section 6409(a) of Middle Class Tax Relief Act

• Requires State, Local Approval of Wireless Tower Modifications

• Is Section 6409(a) Constitutional?

• What Modifications Are Covered?

• Can a Tower Increase in Height Indefinitely?

• What Local and State Laws Are Affected?

• What Types of Towers Are Covered?

• Must a Zoning Request Be Approved Without Any Changes?

• Effect on Cell Tower Leases

Practice Pointers for Municipalities and Municipal Attorneys

• Compliance With State Zoning Rules

• Review of Coverage Maps and Quality of Service

• Record of Case vs. Written Decision

• Exclude Comments on Radio Frequency Emissions and Their Health Effects

• Good Ways to Comply With the Written Decision Requirement

• Suggestions on Complying With Section 6409(a)

• Know the Remedy Rule for Your Circuit and Act Accordingly

Basics of Wireless Technology for Municipalities and Municipal Attorneys

• Coverage vs. Capacity Issues

• Traditional Wireless Sites vs. Distributed Antenna Systems

• Alternative Site Analysis

• RF Safety Compliance Analysis to Determine Compliance With FCC Rules

• Site Camouflage Techniques and Considerations

• 700/2100 MHz Band Technology Considerations

• WiMAX Deployment at Cellular and PCS Wireless Sites

• Future Technologies And Related Legal Considerations