Marin County officials announced Wednesday they are joining other local governments in challenging a Federal Communications Commission order aimed at accelerating the implementation of the fifth generation of wireless service, known as 5G.
Marin County Counsel Brian Washington said the Board of Supervisors reported that it reached the decision in a closed meeting on Tuesday to file a challenge in a federal appeals court.
The county and other cities and counties claim a Sept. 26 FCC order on the deployment of the new technology illegally intrudes on their power to regulate the aesthetic and safety aspects of the placement of new antennas and structures needed for 5G service.
Washington said Marin County will join a coalition of public entities represented by a Washington, D.C., law firm, Spiegel & McDiarmid LLP, and that the petition will be filed soon.
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Twenty-five other West Coast cities and counties, including a group led by the city of San Jose, previously filed similar challenges in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Oct. 24.
The upcoming 5G networks use a different technology, including higher frequencies, and are expected to provide faster service and more coverage than the previous generations.
They use smaller antenna devices, typically no larger than a small backpack, according to the FCC, but have shorter ranges and must be more closely spaced. The new antennas would be placed on existing publicly owned utility poles, new poles or other structures.
The FCC order limits cities' abilities to regulate antenna placement for aesthetic reasons and limits the fees they can charge communications companies.
It requires local governments to act within 60 days on companies' applications to place an antenna on an existing pole or structure and within 90 days on applications for installation on a new structure.
Tim Lay, an attorney in the Spiegel & McDiarmid law firm, said he expects that the challenges filed in different circuit courts in the nation will be sent to a single circuit court, which will set a schedule for filings of briefs and a hearing.
In one of Oct. 24 petitions in the 9th Circuit, San Jose led a coalition of 19 other West Coast cities and counties, including the town of Fairfax and the cities of Piedmont, Burlingame, Monterey and Los Angeles.
Another petition was filed by Seattle, Tacoma and Kings County of Washington state and the third was filed by Huntington Beach.
The FCC said in its Sept. 26 order that 5G services "can unleash a new wave of entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic opportunity for communities across the country."
It said the order, scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 14, "is the next step in the FCC's ongoing efforts to remove regulatory barriers that would unlawfully inhibit the deployment of infrastructure necessary to support these new services."