California Small Cell Bill Vetoed, But Deemed Granted Remedy for Small Cell Applications Signed Into Law

Best Best & Krieger LLP

Best Best & Krieger LLP

Key Takeaways From Governor’s SB 556 and AB 537 Actions

In a win for local governments in California, on Oct. 4, Gov. Newsom vetoed SB 556—a small cell bill that, if signed into law, would have forced local governments and municipal utilities to make their street light poles and traffic signal poles available for small cell deployments under cost-based rates and strict timelines more onerous than the FCC’s small cell order that was partially overturned by the Ninth Circuit last year.

At the same time, the Governor took a seemingly contradictory step by signing into law AB 537, handing the wireless industry a “deemed granted” remedy if the applicant believes (rightly or wrongly) that the local government missed the applicable FCC shot clocks for small cell applications. While the final text of AB 537 did remove troubling language that appeared in earlier drafts authorizing the applicant to “begin construction” and did add some protections for compliance with safety standards and traffic control for construction in public rights-of-way, the bill still puts the burden on local governments to respond to deemed granted notices within 30 days of receipt. When AB 537 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, there will be a deemed granted remedy available in California for all five FCC shot clocks—four under Government Code Section 65964.1 as amended by AB 537 and one under FCC regulations applicable to certain wireless facilities modifications (47 CFR Section 1.6100).

The Senate is now considering the governor’s SB 556 veto. Local governments concerned about a potential override should contact their state elected officials.

Local governments would also be prudent to review permitting processes to ensure that applications can be reviewed and acted upon within FCC shot clocks, and that any deemed granted letters are forwarded to legal counsel promptly upon receipt.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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