The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 15, 2014

Some area communities join outcry against telecommunications bill

Carl Junction, Carthage fear loss of local control

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Legislation that was fast-tracked through the Missouri Senate last week and could be out of the House by the end of the month is being challenged by a number of Missouri communities, whose leaders argue that it guts local control over telecommunications and other companies.

Proponents say the five-bill package streamlines the regulatory process for communications companies hoping to expand their wireless services, particularly as more and more Missourians want increased amounts of data on their smartphones and other mobile devices.

But a number of communities in Missouri, including Carl Junction and Carthage, are pushing back.

The Carl Junction City Council on Jan. 21 passed a resolution opposing the legislation, and the Carthage City Council recently drafted a letter to legislators voicing concern.

Officials with both cities fear the legislation would allow companies to build, replace or upgrade cell towers and antennae, for example, with no zoning approval or public hearings. They say a company could build a cell tower in the middle of a residential area, for example, and there is nothing cities could do to block it, said Steve Lawver, Carl Junction city administrator.

He said the bills strip control from cities and give it to a third party.

Similar legislation has passed in other states, supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an alliance funded in part by corporations such as AT&T and Verizon.

State Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, said AT&T has made the bill one of its top priorities in recent years as it has pursued efforts to try and deploy high speed 4G into more Missouri communities.

The five bills, carried by Lager, are similar to a legislative package that was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon last year, but was struck down by a Missouri court on a technicality.

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