Facing the giants

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

Last week, Farragut Town Administrator David Smoak traveled to Nashville to sit down with Verizon and AT&T leadership to discuss the town’s concerns about the installation of small cell structures in Farragut. It was a promising conversation. Verizon has expressed a willingness to help staff reformat its current aesthetic plan, which would give the town more control over what the structures look like, and even more importantly, work on an agreement with LCUB to co-locate on existing poles.

Verizon is in the process of placing 11 small cell structures in Farragut, but this is expected to be just the beginning of 5G deployment. This is sort of a trial run for Verizon, which has chosen Farragut as one of the first locations in the state where 5G will be rolled out in residential neighborhoods. Federal and state regulations don’t allow the town to deny applications for new structures that are located in the right of way, but at present, the telecommunications giants seem willing to make them more palatable to the community.

This is important, given that full deployment of 5G within the town will require the installation of hundreds of small cell antennae.

“We are trying to do as much as we can, within federal and state regulations, in order to get a deployment of future small cells that meets the standards of our community,” Smoak says.

The community has spoken in a loud, clear voice about its standards. Because Farragut requires utility providers (including telecommunications companies) to come before our Municipal Planning Commission, residents were alerted to the locations of proposed small cell structures before they were installed. None of the hundreds of citizens who have spoken up at the Board of Mayor and Aldermen or planning commission meetings are happy about the prospect of having 35-foot poles installed near their homes.

That landslide of public comment spurred state representatives, Farragut leadership and staff into action. Smoak and other staff worked with town attorney Tom Hale to draft a proposed amendment to the Competitive Wireless Broadband Investment, Deployment and Safety Act of 2018, the state legislation that allows telecommunications companies to install equipment within public rights-of-way with limited interference. The amendment would’ve reduced small cell structure height and required co-location on existing and future structures, where possible, among other things.

State Rep. Jason Zachary and state Sen. Richard Briggs assisted with the timely filing of the amendment to HB2150/SB2133, and the board had a called meeting last week to sign a resolution in support of it in time for Zachary to present it to the House Utilities Subcommittee before the end of the legislative session. Smoak also addressed the subcommittee and answered questions about Farragut’s concerns. You can watch the meeting HERE.

Farragut incorporated 40 years ago in order to have control over zoning and development. Our founders never could have imagined that the town would one day struggle with a loss of control over the delivery of data, something we couldn’t envision needing back then.

The deployment of 5G is happening, whether or not we feel a personal need for it, and the best way to face these giants is to do it together. Residents need to continue to respectfully share their concerns while recognizing that town leaders and staff are doing their best to get those concerns addressed. Farragut has demonstrated what it can accomplish when its citizens work together. Let’s do it again.

Town of Farragut public relations and marketing coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.

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