State and Local Government committee holds public hearing on legislation that would hurt 5G expansion in Maine
On Wednesday, January 19, the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government as a public hearing on LD 383, An Act Concerning Small Wireless Facilities in Maine. This bill was introduced as a concept draft by Rep. Sophia Warren (D-Scarborough) more than a year ago. An amendment was introduced on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours before the public hearing. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce submitted testimony in opposition to LD 383.
This Legislation would undo several changes made to the laws regarding small wireless facilities in 2019. In the 129th Legislature, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce testified in support of LD 1517, An Act To Facilitate the Deployment of Small Wireless Facilities in Maine. This legislation created a framework for the efficient and streamlined deployment of small wireless facilities in Maine. This legislation promoted job creation, economic investment, and opportunity throughout Maine. In 2019, it was stated that these changes will create consistency in permitting and will help encourage expansion of wireless connectivity. This legislation was supported by The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and eventually was signed into law by Governor Janet Mills. If LD 383 were to pass, it would undo these changes and not provide the consistency it intended to create. Going back on these changes would send a bad message to companies investing in Maine.
Wireless and 5G expansion has created an enormous economic opportunity in Maine. This would create benefits that extend to our municipalities and local governments. According to a 2019 study by Accenture, Smart City and 5G investments, which are made possible by small cells, are estimated to bring $102 million in GDP growth and create more than 800 jobs in Portland, Maine. Another study from Boston Consulting Group showed it would create $2.8 billion in GDP growth and more than 8,600 jobs across the state during the next 10 years.
Wireless connectivity is critical to help closing the digital divide, a challenge faced by rural and urban Maine communities. The next generation of wireless, which is 5G, can provide options to help residents and communities address the digital divide in our state. There are several community benefits that come from 5G, and the difference will be immediately noticed by Mainers who will get connected at faster speeds with a greater response time because of the latest generation of wireless technology.
With improved connectivity, businesses can access the tools they need to better compete in the global economy and small businesses can grow their customer base, expand their reach, and potentially increase their revenue. Students can take distance-learning classes to further their education and access a world of opportunities that might not otherwise be available. When wireless carriers are seeking to enhance their networks, one of the key factors they consider is whether municipalities and states have streamlined permitting processes and regulatory environments that encourage investment. That is why it is important for Maine to implement statewide small cell legislation that will establish a consistent, streamlined permitting process for wireless carriers to bring this technology to our communities. The changes in 2019 did that and gives Maine a competitive advantage rather than forcing companies to look at other states to invest their money.
It is also important to note that, procedurally speaking, there are several concerns to be raised. LD 383 has been a concept draft for over a year and less than 24 hours before the public hearing an amendment was released. There has been little information known about the piece of legislation and what it aims to do. Now that we know more, this change is unnecessary and given the changes that were made in 2019, it would be take our state in the wrong direction. Changing laws that were supported by industry, associations, businesses, the legislature, and the Governor, is not the best way to make public policy.
The next steps in LD 383 will be a work session on the legislation in two weeks. The Chamber will be engaged in the work session and will report back with an update on the status of this bill. For additional information or questions, please contact Ben Lucas by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 111, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.