Metro Council sets $250 annual rate for small cell equipment placed on public property | News

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council on Wednesday set a $250 annual rate for small cell equipment placed in city-parish rights of way.

The gear provides signals to limited, targeted areas to boost signals where there is dense demand. City-parish staff have estimated that companies like AT&T — which lack the space to build new towers — may need to install hundreds of small cell sites to provide or improve service.

On Wednesday, the Metro Council approved the rate for such gear with the sole but vigorous opposition of Matt Watson.

“I don’t like the $250-a-year. I think we’re giving away the house,” Watson said, noting other cities that charge higher rates.

A fight is brewing over how much companies should pay to use public property in Baton Rouge …

Ordinance co-sponsor Buddy Amoroso disagreed. Cities like Houston were able to charge a couple thousand dollars in the past because telecommunication companies were looking to install more infrastructure to increase their capacity in the lead-up to this year’s Super Bowl, he said. And places like Dallas can command higher rates because they’re several times the size of Baton Rouge, he contended.

Those Texas municipalities no longer charge those rates since the Texas Legislature a few months ago passed a law setting statewide annual rates around $250, which Dallas estimated cost the state’s municipalities approximately $800 million in annual revenue. Baton Rouge’s ordinance is based on the Texas state model.

The $250 annual rate is great for AT&T, but for the city and public it’s an “absolute…

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