Small Cell Technology

Example of a small cell on a public utility pole in downtown Eugene

Small cell technology is used to provide additional capacity and coverage to existing networks such as in high traffic or hard-to-reach locations. The telecommunications industry is installing more and more small cell technology in cities across the country, often attaching the systems on existing poles in the right-of-way, for example, on light or utility poles.

When receiving applications for small cell installation in Eugene’s right-of-way, Eugene Public Works will evaluate the permits for compliance with applicable city code provisions, administrative rules, and requirements, including but not limited to the City’s Telecommunications Ordinance No. 20083, which was established in 1997, City administrative rules for construction in public rights-of-way, and City requirements for small cell wireless installations. If the request meets relevant requirements and follows City standards and specifications for installation, staff grant the permit.

Federal law, including Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rulings, imposes significant limitations on a city’s ability to regulate the placement and construction of telecommunications towers and facilities. While the City of Eugene is allowed to regulate and make decisions based on concerns regarding structural capacity of poles, interference with City use of poles or the ROW, interference with drivers’ views of traffic, and other such operational or safety concerns, the other main area on which the City may regulate installations is based on aesthetic considerations. Federal law prohibits the City from making any decisions regarding small cell installations based on concerns about health safety due to radio frequency (RF) emissions if the installations meet FCC regulations. The FCC has information about RF safety on its website.

A permit review is comprised of several components and has a variety of requirements that must be met in order to be approved for installation in City of Eugene Rights-of-Way. The permit must meet the guidelines outlined in the applicable document based on the pole ownership.

The following are links to the guidelines for Small Cell permit applications for deployment in City of Eugene Rights-of-Way:

Small Cell Installation on City-Owned Poles

Small Cell Installation on Non-City-Owned Poles

Before a site-specific application is reviewed for compliance and completeness, it must first satisfy City of Eugene small cell location standards or be replaced by a more suitable location. The determination is based on preestablished location preference aesthetic standards as reviewed by the Small Cell Aesthetic Location Preference committee.

The role of the committee is to determine if the proposed location is the most suitable location or recommend a more suitable location. The Small Cell Aesthetic Location Preference committee is comprised of City of Eugene Utility Coordinators, the City of Eugene Right-of-Way Technical Supervisor, a Eugene Water and Electric Board Utility Joint Use Coordinator, and frequently includes one or more visiting attendees with relevant program responsibilities.  

After the committee reviews the location request and determines the most preferred location utilizing the Small Cell Aesthetic Location Preference Checklist, the determination is delivered to the original permit reviewer who then proceeds with the permit review process.

Once the permit is either approved or denied, the result is updated in the Small Cell Location Map to reflect the most current status of the pole and site.

If the application is approved and a permit issued, the wireless provider is required to provide public notice of intent to construct, and such notice must be provided no less than five calendar days prior to construction commencing. The public notice shall be distributed to all owners and occupants of properties with street frontage within 250’ of the deployment site. If the pole location is at an intersection, 250’ notice in all directions of intersecting streets shall be included.