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California Legislature

Gov. Jerry Brown sides with local governments, vetoes state rules for installing 5G cellular equipment

 (Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

The installation of high-speed “small cell” equipment in California will not be driven by new statewide mandates after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill pitting the lobbying power of the telecommunications industry against that of local governments.

The bill would have downsized the role played by city and county officials in setting limits on where the equipment for new 5G cellular service would be placed. Local governments would have had less power to unilaterally block the installation of the devices, which Brown said in his veto message was a problem.

"I believe that the interest which localities have in managing rights of way requires a more balanced solution than the one achieved in this bill," he wrote.

Supporters of Senate Bill 649 had claimed it would help ensure more communities are connected faster.

"This is a bill that will create lots of jobs," said state Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), the proposal's author, during floor debate on Sept. 14. "It will increase connectivity in our state."

But local government officials insisted throughout long legislative negotiations that citizens should have the power to say where new, potentially unsightly equipment will be placed in their communities.

The final version of the bill called for a streamlining of the process for obtaining permits to install the new equipment, limiting both the fees that local governments could charge and the discretion they have in rejecting plans for the cellular equipment.

The bill was amended half a dozen times throughout the course of the year, but the changes produced little to no common ground. Brown’s decision was a rare defeat for the powerful telecommunications giants on high-profile legislation.

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