Statement by Councilmember Hans Riemer on Wireless Infrastructure

Over the past two years I have worked closely with County Executive Ike Leggett and several of my colleagues at the Council to support the future of wireless infrastructure in Montgomery County. Basically this is about whether your devices will be able to do what they are designed to do in the future. The industry is running out of capacity on wireless networks in the County due to growing demand (i.e., us on our phones, and everyone having multiple devices) and they need to place antennas at the street level. The industry is also working on a new technology, 5g, that will be way faster that 4g (think 40g), but also it requires antennas at the street level, rather that up on tall towers.

We successfully established rules for these antennas in our commercial areas this year, which was a great step forward. We need to address them for residential areas as well. We had a bill before the Council, prepared by the County Executive, and championed by Councilmember Craig Rice and me, to accomplish that goal.

Unfortunately amendments were introduced that essentially sought to obstruct deployment of wireless infrastructure in the future. This was a real concern because many people want to have good wireless coverage in their neighborhoods, whether to use devices for entertainment and communication, or to call 911, or to work from home, you name it.

Not to mention that the industry is watching us and wants to take away our local control over how this infrastructure can be placed, with legislation at the state and federal level. Regulating deployment is one thing, but trying to obstruct it is something else.

Rather than approve a bad bill that would set us back and invite State and Federal pre-emption, I pulled the legislation. I look forward to taking some additional time to work on it with the new County Council and I hope we’ll get it right next time around.

Wireless and fiber communications infrastructure is important to the future of the county, just like water, power, or transportation infrastructure. We need it all to grow and thrive. Local government must rise to the challenge.