We need better wireless service. Now we will get it

Dear Resident,

Most of us don’t think much about how our technology works. We just expect it to work.

I know that your wireless bill is a significant expense. What is the point of paying for poor service?

I am happy to share that the County Council passed zoning change legislation I have been working on to legalize the installation of small antennas on utility poles and light poles so that our wireless networks can continue to expand.

If we do not make this change, our service quality will steadily decline. We will have trouble doing whatever we want to do with our mobile devices because the networks will be overwhelmed with traffic.

While the prospect of some additional equipment on our utility poles isn’t exactly lovely, our home wifi routers aren’t either and yet we all have them and rely on them. This isn’t much different, it’s just that equipment is outside.

Montgomery County has to take steps to build a stronger economic future. While we have been debating whether 5G should be legal, other jurisdictions in the region have long since moved forward.

How are we supposed to compete for job growth from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Amazon, if we turn our backs to technology infrastructure? The answer is that we can’t. Companies don’t want to be in a technology backwater.

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The Council Connection — school construction CIP, wireless connectivity infrastructure and more

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

I hope that you had an enjoyable holiday weekend. The Council is back in session on Tuesday, and we have a packed agenda. Included will be a discussion about employee workplace harassment policies and procedures, a review that the Council requested to ensure that we are doing everything we can to promote productive and safe work environments for our public sector employees.

We will also continue our work on the FY19-24 capital budget with a special focus on Montgomery Public Schools. The Council has been steadily increasing its investment in MCPS construction and renovation needs, making MCPS a higher priority for our construction program. The County Executive’s proposal before the Council would raise MCPS funding to record levels.

You may have heard that the Census Bureau recently announced that the 2020 Census will include a question on citizenship. In response, the Council will introduce a resolution that opposes this question and urges Maryland to sue the Federal Government to stop its addition to the Census. The resolution underscores that the citizenship question will damage the accuracy of the 2020 Census, affecting our community disproportionately, and hinder the goals of the Voting Rights Act. The Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution on April 17.

On Tuesday night, we have a public hearing about a proposal from the County Executive to amend the zoning code to allow for new telecommunications equipment. Specifically, new antennas that companies like Verizon and AT&T (to name just a few) want to install for the next generation of connectivity are smaller and intended to be placed on utility poles, streetlights, and similar locations, but the zoning code does not allow for them. There are many challenging issues involved.

Committees will take up many substantial issues, from Countywide technology programs to childcare. Read the full committee agenda here.


Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President


How do I…

…find Council staff “packets.”

The County Council has a dedicated staff of analysts and attorneys that provide rigorous and objective analysis of all business before the Council. Reading the work product (“packets” in the vernacular) of these analysts and attorneys is the most comprehensive way to learn about the particular issue you care about.

Fortunately, you don’t have to come to Rockville and dig through paper archives to browse the Council staff packets. They are all available on the Council website. Here are some tips to help you find the packet you are looking for:

The Council Connection — wireless connectivity infrastructure, transportation CIP, and more

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

County Executive Leggett submitted his FY19 budget proposal to the County Council last Thursday. I appreciate the great work that the Executive and his staff have done to get us to this point in the budget process. The County Executive’s budget, which you can explore using the County’s Open Budget tools, provides a solid foundation for the Council to begin its work to determine the final budget. Keep tabs on the Council’s progress by visiting our budget webpage.

In addition to the FY19 budget, the Council has a full agenda for the week ahead. Three bills dealing with environmental issues will be introduced, and the Council will take final action on economic development legislation. The Council continues its work on the Capital Budget with tentative approval of projects in public safety, technology, and transportation. The Council will also conclude its work on the 10 Year Water and Sewer Plan. The plan (in concert with County’s master plans) determines where and how sewer or septic systems decisions are made. Read the staff memo here.

On Tuesday night, we have a public hearing about a proposal from the County Executive to amend the zoning code to allow for new telecommunications equipment. Specifically, new antennas that companies like Verizon and AT&T (to name just a few) want to install for the next generation of connectivity are smaller and intended to be placed on utility poles, streetlights, and similar locations, but the zoning code does not allow for them. There are many challenging issues involved.

Committees will take up many substantial issues, from affordable housing legislation and Montgomery College capital funding to the Purple Line. Read the full committee agenda here.


Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President


  • The Council met with more than 200 people at the Council’s Town Hall at the White Oak Recreation Center on March 14. We discussed a wide range of issues including economic development, the opportunity gap, protections for our immigrant communities, libraries, crime and litter. A portion of the meeting can be viewed here.
  • The Council tentatively approved capital projects affecting WSSC, Public Safety, and Recreation

How do I…

…get involved with the Council’s work on the FY19 budget.

Final Council action on the FY19 budget is currently scheduled for May 24, but we need your help in the meantime. We want to know what services are most important to you and how we can make local government more responsive to your needs. Here are a couple ways to make your voice heard during the budget process:

Below is the County’s budget timeline.

January 15
County Executive submits proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) and capital budget to the Council.

Early February – Capital Improvements Program (CIP) public hearings are scheduled.
For the FY19-24 CIP, Council public hearings were held on February 6 and 7.

March 15
County Executive submits proposed operating budget to the Council.

Early April – Operating budget public hearings are scheduled.
For the FY19 budget these public hearings are scheduled for April 10, 11 and 12.
Committee meetings begin to review operating budget.

Council operating budget meetings begin.
For the FY19 budget these meetings are tentatively scheduled for May 7-17.
Final vote on the operating budget is tentatively scheduled for May 24.

June 1
Council must take final action on the budget no later than June 1.

July 1
New fiscal year begins.

Montgomery County Files FCC Comments and Pushes NACo to Defend Counties from Attacks on Local Zoning Authority for Small Cell Facilities

ROCKVILLE, MD., March 9, 2017—Montgomery County filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as part of the national Smart Communities Siting Coalition opposing a petition filed by telecommunications infrastructure company Mobilitie.

The petition filed by Mobilitie challenges local governments’ authority to manage the placement of, and charge rent for, communication facilities on public roads, sidewalks, and streetlights. The County filed Supplemental Comments indicating the County’s wireless policy has been successful. The County also asked that the FCC – which has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate radio frequency (RF) emissions – focus on completing the proceeding it opened four years ago to address the health effects on humans of RF emissions from telecommunications services.

This action comes on the heels of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, County Council Vice President Hans Riemer, and Council President Roger Berliner successfully sponsoring a National Association of Counties (NACo) policy resolution that opposed efforts at the Federal and State levels to preempt local zoning authority for the siting of “small cell” wireless facilities.

“We recognize that some amendment to our zoning code may be needed to address small cell facilities, which may need to be deployed deeper in neighborhoods than macro cell technology,” said Riemer. “But communities should have a say over how the infrastructure is deployed, and we should be able to charge a reasonable fee for commercial use of our roads and sidewalks. We can reach a win-win solution that enables deployment while preserving community interests.”

In the filing, the County states it is unreasonable that the Commission leaves it to local government to explain to constituents why the Commission has not updated its radio RF emission standards in 20 years. The County also points out that the FCC has neglected, in four years, to complete its work on this very issue, while simultaneously finding time, at the request of industry, to consider whether more preemption of local decision-making for small cell deployments is necessary.

“Montgomery County must retain the ability to protect residents’ interest in not crowding neighborhoods with new poles.” said Leggett. “I am confident we can do so without sacrificing our goal to keep Montgomery County the most connected County in America. But local solutions, not federal preemption, are the answer.”

Montgomery County has worked constructively with residents and the wireless industry, reviewing 2,900 applications over 20 years. To date, 1,121 wireless facilities are deployed in 534 unique locations within the County.

“We must send a clear message that any preemption efforts at the Federal or State level on this matter are not in the best interests of our County’s residents,” Berliner said. “Our County needs to retain our authority to reduce the adverse impacts of small cell towers on our residents and determine what can be done to protect the quality of life of our neighborhoods.”

More small cells are needed to meet growing demand for wireless broadband. Small cells are installed as lower heights than existing tall “macrocell” telecommunications towers. Macrocell equipment is dumpster size, whereas small cell equipment is 120-qt camping cooler size. Montgomery County has received applications for more than 250 small cell antennas in 6 months, and anticipates another 500 applications in the next 18 months.


Appointment to the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

I am pleased to announce that Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commisison (FCC), has named me to the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.

Please see the press release below:

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer appointed to FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee

Riemer looks to deepen work promoting competitive markets for high speed Internet

January 5, 2017

ROCKVILLE, Md., January 5, 2017—Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler has named Montgomery County Council Vice President Hans Riemer to serve as one of two county officials nationally on the FCC Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC).

The IAC provides guidance, expertise and recommendations to the Commission on a range of telecommunication issues for which local, state and Tribal governments explicitly or inherently share responsibility or administration with the Commission. In the 2017-19 term, the IAC will be focused on the role state and local governments play in broadband deployment and adoption, wireless infrastructure deployment, Universal Service programs, consumer complaints processes and public safety issues.

“I am honored to serve on the FCC advisory committee, and I intend to use this role to advocate for a more competitive and robust marketplace for broadband deployment,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “Local governments have a positive role to play in broadband deployment, and I look forward to bringing Montgomery County’s experience to the Commission.”

Vice President Riemer was nominated to serve by the National Association of Counties (NACo). In his letter recommending that Vice President Riemer serve on the committee, Matthew Chase, the executive director of NACo, wrote: “His experience and background uniquely qualify him to serve on the IAC. He is currently a member of both the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, as well as the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, for Montgomery County, Maryland. Through his work on these committees, he is responsible for oversight and the development of Montgomery County’s information technology and telecommunications infrastructure.”

During his six years on the Council, Vice President Riemer has strengthened Montgomery County’s digital infrastructure. The County owns and manages FiberNet, which is a 650-mile fiber optic network that connects more than 500 community anchor institutions, including public schools, the community college, libraries, recreation centers, and government buildings. With an annual budget in excess of $8 million, FiberNet is a critical piece of the County’s ability to efficiently and effectively deliver services to residents.

Council Vice President Riemer has worked to strengthen the County’s investment in FiberNet by successfully funding a 24/7 carrier-class network operations center and putting forward a strategic plan to make the governance and funding of FiberNet more sustainable.

He also has championed the growing deployment of Chromebooks in the County’s public schools and public wifi in urban districts. In addition, he has been a major supporter of the County Government’s ultraMontgomery initiative, which utilizes FiberNet to promote economic development in the County’s strategic industries of life-science, bio-technology and cybersecurity. UltraMontgomery recently facilitated a direct fiber connection from Ashburn, Va., to Montgomery County, strengthening the capacity of the County’s data networks and data centers.

Vice President Riemer is currently working on policies that promote a more competitive market for broadband networks and services. These policies are “Dig Once,” “One Touch Make Ready” and “broadband-ready” building codes.

“Communities need local government officials to put planning for high-speed data networks on the same level as planning for transportation, power and water networks,” said Vice President Riemer. “It is an evolving policy area and I hope by serving on the Committee that I will be able to identify ways for the FCC to support the work of local government. I also look forward to providing a voice for local communities on 5G deployment, an issue with which our County is currently grappling.”

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