Update on 5G in McCandless (June 2021)

We are all hearing more and more about 5G devices and how this new generation of technology will make wireless internet access faster than ever before. But you might be wondering, what does this mean for residents and businesses here in McCandless? Will we see new types of cell towers popping up across our neighborhoods? What is the town doing about all of this? These are all great questions and points to discuss.

There is a rapidly increasing demand for wireless services such as 5G technology, not only for our mobile phones but for other systems such as Emergency Alerts, public safety services, smart appliances, personal delivery devices and self-driving vehicles. Over time, 5G technology will continue to have an increasingly larger impact on our daily lives.

First, it is important to know that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established requirements for the "small wireless facilities" that the carriers use for 5G and placed certain limits on what local governments and towns, like McCandless, can manage. In September 2020, Town Council approved ordinance Number 1504 which defines and establishes conditions for the construction of communications towers and antennas. You can read the full Ordinance Number 1504 (PDF) but here are some of the key points.

The ordinance defines "Stealth Technology" which is the camouflaging method for wireless communication towers and antennas to make them more visually appealing or to blend a device into an existing structure. These could be roof or building mounted antennas which are painted to match the structure, or the antenna could be constructed to look like a tree, shrub or light pole. The preferred locations are existing utility poles, streetlights and traffic signal poles.

The Town Administration plans to develop a detailed application for the installation of all small wireless communication devices. As part of the application requirements, there will be limits on antenna size, height, projection from the structure, concealment technologies and other specifications. New support structures are not to be located in residential neighborhoods (unless the company has exhausted all other alternatives for a site).

Any new structure must support collocation, which means that multiple wireless devices from more than one license holder could share the same structure, creating greater efficiency and use of the structure. Applicants must follow a list of preferred locations for installation of devices starting with office, retail, industrial and commercial districts.

There is a lot of discussion across Pennsylvania about how to best implement and regulate 5G technology. At the publishing time of this article, two bills are circulating in Harrisburg. House Bill 1621 is sponsored by Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver) and co-sponsored by Rep. Rob Matzie (D-Beaver). This bill has moved out of committee and has been introduced to the House. Senate Bill 769 is sponsored by Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and has also moved out of committee. As decisions are made in Harrisburg on this important topic, we will provide updates, so watch for future articles!

If you have any questions on this technology, please email the Technology Advisory Committee.